Creek cleanup logged with jams
Plans to clean Indian Creek are in full swing again after facing several delays.
The original petition to clean the ditch began in 2002. The project had just started to flow in 2003 when it was held up in court. The project has since been through court twice.
“This is our fourth time restarting this project,” said Cass County Surveyor Jenny Clark.
Indian Creek flows in Pulaski, Cass, Fulton and White counties. The scope of the project begins with the eastern end of the creek, northeast of Lucerne, and ends at SR 119 in Pulaski County, including 70,000 acres and 35 miles of open drain. There are 559 parcels in Pulaski County that are affected by Indian Creek.
Pulaski County Surveyor Jenny Weaver-Keller said Pulaski County was previously in charge of the project but the board was dissolved.
“I own ground in the watershed so I had to recuse myself because that was one of the points from before,” she said, in reference to a court case involving the creek cleanup.
The board then appointed Clark as the ex officio. Cass County has the second largest amount of drainage and is now heading up the project.
“It’s really kind of a simple plan. Basically what we are doing is taking off the trees and any leaners. There are very few sections that are going to require any digging at all. It’s basically just going through and taking out the log jams,” Weaver-Keller said. “We want to get those out so the water can flow.”
She said the whole creek will not be dredged, just certain areas will.
The log jams and fallen trees are not only affecting the farmers’ fields but also several roadways and bridges flood when a large amount of rain happens.
“A lot of times when we get those huge floods it does go out over the roads and there are road closures due to the creek flowing over the banks,” Weaver-Keller said. “It is occurring more and more with the flooding.”
Clark said other counties are seeing the same flooding issues. The Town of Royal Center drains into Indian Creek and is affected “immensely” by it.
She doesn’t think there is one particular location that is worse than another because it is watershedwide.
Engineers have been working on the project since 2006. The recent change in the project occurred after a court hearing where it was determined that the classification of the project should be changed from a maintenance project to a reconstruction project, according to Clark.
“Since we did change from a maintenance to a reconstruction, there is a little bit more survey work that we have to do to be able to prepare a plan and a surveyor’s report,” Clark said.
“We have had several people come in and complain. It hasn’t been touched since the ‘40s, so obviously there is a lot of buildup. There is a lot of sediment,” Clark said.
The tiles that drain into the ditch have not been elevated causing smaller amounts of water to have bigger impacts.
“These outlets when they get under water, do not drain. They back up,” Clark said.
Once those plans are prepared the project will move forward to the permitting phase. Permits from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will need to be obtained.
A basis of what the project is allowed to do will be established, along with establishing costs. A public hearing will be set after that. Clark said there isn’t a timeline set at this time but an engineering plan could be ready sometime in the spring or summer of 2016. The project may be stalled if a property owner affected by the creek is against the project.
“Our plans that we had that we were working on were getting old. They were approximately 10 years old. A lot can happen in 10 years - high water marks, more erosion, tree falling,” Clark said. “It will take several months just to do the initial field work.”
There are portions of the creek that may not have as much work as other areas. The worst parts of the creek will be worked on first.
Funding will come from the general drain improvements by percentages. Weaver-Keller said the main costs currently are for engineering. As the project continues a percentage rate per county will be set and then collected from the land owners into the Indian Creek fund.
“We’ll build that up and pay for the cleanout,” Weaver-Keller said.
Commissioner Bud Krohn Jr. is representing Pulaski County on the five-person Indian Creek Joint Drainage Board. Others on the board are Ralph Anderson, of Cass County, Roger Rose, of Fulton County, John Heimlich, of White County, and Kevin Overmyer, of Marshall County, who is from an unaffected county.
The next meeting will be Feb. 17, 2016, in the Cass County Commissioners’ Hearing Room on the second floor.
Pulaski County is currently working on other regular maintenance for county ditches including Antrim Ditch. Some of the work will be as simple as brush removal.