Rocky Ripple Reaches Out for Help

Col. Luke Leonard met with residents of Rocky Ripple at a recent open house and public hearing.

Colonel Luke Leonard in a recent trip to Indy performed his

duty of putting a face to the "faceless bureaucrat" to whom opponents

of the Corps' proposed floodwall plan have been writing letters.

He listened to comments for over two hours last Thursday at

Meridian United Methodist Church. He answered few questions, but his posture

and eye contact remained unwavering throughout the event. He opened by thanking

the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and stating that, after extensive

research, the Corps recommends the Westfield Boulevard alignment. This proposal

would exclude the 330-home neighborhood of Rocky Ripple from flood protection

as well as require the removal of trees and vegetation along the Canal Towpath

from the Warfleigh neighborhood to the Butler

University campus.

Bonnie Jennings, the Corps' project manager for this plan,

was calm and firm during the crowded open house leading up to the hearing as

she fielded hundreds of questions from concerned residents. She stated that the

purpose of the meeting was to explain the project and take comments. When asked

about the dangers posed to Rocky Ripple, she insisted, "We do care about

Rocky Ripple." She went on to explain that residents would receive a two

to three day advanced notice to evacuate in the event of a flood, so that no

one would get "walled in." When questioned about concerns regarding

the proposed plan's effects on property values in that neighborhood, she did

not provide a direct answer, instead stating that Rocky Ripple already was

considered a floodplain.

The project began in response to a White River flooding

event in 1991. The alignment proposed currently would become the third and

final phase of that project. The basis of the Col. Leonard's recommendation of

the Westfield Boulevard alignment over others is that it is "not

economically viable" to include Rocky Ripple in the protection offered

through the floodwall. Apparently, the cost of inclusion outweighs the

benefits. After introducing these key points, Col. Leonard stated that a final

decision would be made by December 2012. He then invited the public to comment.

State Rep. Ed Delaney was the first to speak up, stating

that his "core concern" was that the people of Rocky Ripple be

protected. State Sen. Greg Taylor spoke next, claiming Rocky Ripple as "... an

area I've come to know and love." He expressed dismay over the potential

for property values in that area to decline if the floodwall is built as

planned, and said that he hoped the Corps would " ...err on the side of doing

no harm."

Carla Gaff-Clark, a member of the Rocky Ripple town council,

implored the Corps to work with them on this project: "In '94 and '96,

when we didn't want in, things were different ... at no time did Rocky Ripple say 'no'

to flood protection."

One by one, citizens of Indianapolis stood up to speak out. Not

a single person spoke in favor of the floodwall as currently recommended. A

common theme was unease over a lack of clarity regarding the cost-benefit

analysis provided in the DSEIS made public by the Corps. Many wanted

to know why, exactly, it would be such an economic difficulty to include Rocky

Ripple in the plan. Included among the other numerous concerns were the effect

that the wall would have on wildlife and the structural integrity of the canal,

which supplies 60 percent of Indianapolis' drinking water.

Travis Ryan, a professor of conservation biology at Butler

University, felt that the wall would be a "true threat to wildlife" and

that the DSEIS underestimates the impacts that the wall will have. He said his

earlier letters to the Corps regarding his concerns went unanswered.

Mary Walker, a 40-year member and former president of the

Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association, received a round of applause when

she matter-of-factly stated "The canal doesn't

flood. The river is what floods ... either side of the canal is the wrong place to

build a levee." She called for preservation of the canal, as well as the

Butler University athletic fields, the Butler prairie, carillon, and Holcomb


In a brief interview after the hearing, Col. Leonard said he

felt that the hearing went well, allowing him to "get a feeling for the

passion" of the community and listen to information he hadn't heard

before. He acknowledged the concern about the economics of the project, stating

that he needed to be "more transparent" with his estimates because "Rocky

Ripple doesn't buy it or understand it . . . and this won't go away until they


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