White River controversies 

Paddles, flooding and big walls

Rocky Ripple kids join in a rally held Aug. 18, 2013 to protest the Army Corps of Engineers' preferred flood plan scenario. - EMMA FAESI HUDELSON
  • Rocky Ripple kids join in a rally held Aug. 18, 2013 to protest the Army Corps of Engineers' preferred flood plan scenario.
  • Emma Faesi Hudelson

A few pretty important things regarding the White River are happening this weekend. To wit:

The paddle and the presentation

Our friends at Friends of the White River are hosting a pretty prolific paddler this Sunday, Bryan Brown :

Bryan Brown learned to love paddling on Indiana’s White River and that joy has become a life-long passion.

Now regarded as an eco-adventure traveler, Bryan will speak at Holliday Park at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 6.

The event is hosted by Friends of the White River in partnership with Holliday Park and is free to the public.

Bryan successfully completed the first-ever solo unsupported descent of the entire 2,400-mile Colorado River watershed in 2013. The Green River/Colorado River watershed features some of the most fabled and remote whitewater passages on earth — Dinosaur National Monument, Desolation Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Grand Canyon and Westwater Canyon.

He also completed a solo 57-day, 2,300-mile source-to-mouth kayak expedition of the Yukon River from Lewellyn Glacier near Atlin, British Columbia to the Bering Sea. Bryan also made the longest self-supported descent of Canada’s MacKenzie Rivers.

His presentations often focus on strategic water-use issues. Bryan is a native Hoosier and an IU graduate.

The day before, Brown and FWR will stage a paddle along the White River to shoot photos and show Indy residents what kind of flora and fauna already reside along the river — and why development (a beach? really?) might not be necessary to draw folks to the waterside if the resource were simply cared for properly.

Bryan Brown, March 6, 1 p.m., Holliday Park, 6363 Spring Mill Road

RELATED: Costs and benefits of the wall (from 2013)

Meanwhile, in Rocky Ripple

The proposed floodwall — the one Rocky Ripple residents say could doom their little 'burg — is going forward, come hell and high water. According to RR board member Carla Gaff-Clark, who told us via email,

During a special meeting conducted by the city, Rocky Ripple officials along with other neighborhood organizations, including Butler Tarkington, Warfleigh, Butler University, and Midtown Indy, were told that the flood project now has the needed federal funding to move forward.

We understood the meeting was for Mayor Hogsett's administration to obtain our input regarding the proposed Westfield Blvd. Floodwall. Unfortunately, what we found out at the meeting was that it appears the City has firm plans to move forward with this project, regardless of input from us and neighboring organizations that this is not what we want. We stood united at the meeting and explained that we want flood protection for all, including Rocky Ripple, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears with City officials.

We were told that the Army Corps of Engineers had approved funding for this project just this last week, although it wasn’t announced until that moment, and that per a decision made by former Mayor Ballard, the City was moving forward with the Westfield Blvd. Alignment project. We were also told that Mayor Hogsett would be meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers on March 8th to review the plan, and that he had not made a final decision to move the project forward.

The plan as it stands puts 300 homes in jeopardy, as Gaff-Clark noted in a recent letter:

Flood Project Could Doom Rocky Ripple

Sacrificing the town of Rocky Ripple for the sake of completing a 30-year-old flood project is neither good nor responsible government. This is the message once again being sent by the town board of Rocky Ripple, a small village nestled between the Central Canal, White River and Butler University.

In Mid-December Indianapolis officials announced another change to the location of the North Flood Damage Reduction Project. This time, from the west-side of the canal back to the east-side known as the Westfield Blvd. Alignment. Although the change is better for a few homeowners in Rocky Ripple, as it saves their houses; from the point of view of the town as a whole, both plans wall the town into the path of flood waters, which is worse than doing nothing.

The main reason hundreds of Rocky Ripple and adjoining community residents have spoken out in public meetings, sent letters and made phone calls against the canal options over the last five years is not because they are against flood protection, but because the town is being ignored and sacrificed in “a” plan for flood protection of others.

For more than twenty years Rocky Ripple has requested help from the City in maintaining and restoring the earthen levee that has protected the town since it was built by the WPA in the 1930s. Now the biggest flood threat is not the river coming over the top of the levee but a break in the levee resulting in a washout. If the levee fails where the White River turns west and separates from the canal just south of 56th Street and Illinois, the river would be diverted with a terrible force into Rocky Ripple and those who were not washed away would be under water in a matter of minutes. Construction up-stream has increased the flow and speed of the river during high-water incidents, and the decision to leave Rocky Ripple out of the flood protection plan, not only threatens the small town into becoming a blighted area of more than 300 homes, it threatens lives.

City officials need to work with USACE to develop a flood protection plan that not only provides relief from flood insurance and more favorable business development, but one that also protects human life. What is needed is a plan to address the levee on the river in Rocky Ripple. But, if City officials won’t do that, then the Rocky Ripple Town Board asks that the plan to put a wall on the canal be stopped so a life-threatening situation isn’t created.

Rocky Ripple Town Board,
Carla Gaff-Clark
Mandy Redmond
Jill Morris

Rocky Ripple will hold a special town board meeting tomorrow.

Rocky Ripple Town Hall Meeting, March 5, 10 a.m.- 12 noon, 930 W 54th St., 317-257-7962

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About The Author

Ed Wenck

Ed Wenck

Ed Wenck has been writing for NUVO (as well as several other Indiana publications) for nearly 20 years while moonlighting as a radio host. He became Managing Editor of NUVO in 2013. He's authored four books and also reports for WISH-TV's Boomer TV program.

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