Rocky Ripple lying down, not taking it

Dateline: Tue 14 Aug 2012

The residents of little Rocky Ripple -- "I'm not lost, I live here" is the bumper sticker that speaks to the little town's penache -- are holding a protest this Saturday in an effort to draw attention to their problems with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

You know the story: the Corps, with god-like powers and utter indifference, has decreed that a proposed floodwall to keep the White River at bay in the event of a disaster will not protect Rocky Ripple and its 330 homes and 700 or so residents from being washed away.


The back story is that years ago, Rocky Ripple residents, guided by some bad politics, voted not to be included in the Corps' plans and to go it alone in the event of a flood. That was foolish, but that's over. Now, Rocky Ripple is clamoring to be included in the latest floodwall construction plans, but the Corps and various government officials are turning a deaf ear.

From the RR website:

"Recently the Army Corp of Engineers and the City of Indianapolis drafted a proposal to finish the Indy Levee Project by walling the town of Rocky Ripple off from the rest of the City of Indianapolis.  Instead of including Rocky Ripple in the Levee Project, as Rocky Ripple and surrounding communities have requested, the Army Corp and the City of Indianapolis have decided that the best course of action is to leave Rocky Ripple dangling unprotected in a flood way and merely sandbag their outgoing streets in the event of a flood, essentially keeping the water that will surely drown Rocky Ripple from getting out.

"This is especially disturbing given the fact that the Army Corp of Engineers has declared that Rocky Ripple is in a 7-year flood plain.  Essentially, what the Army Corp of Engineers and the City of Indianapolis are saying is that Rocky Ripple will likely flood in a 7-year time period and very possibly may be destroyed.  It’s hard to imagine that an organization like the Army Corp of Engineers, one of whose primary functions is “emergency response to natural disasters,” has created a proposal that will likely create one.  What’s more, the City of Indianapolis, the city we all pay taxes too, is riding shotgun on this proposal."

In an effort to demonstrate just how short-sighted the current plan is, RR is holding a protest this Saturday in the form of a "flash mob event." The residents plan to get together, sandbag their own streets and lie down, providing a visual of what 700 or so bodies on the island look like. Residents of Butler-Tarkington, RR's neighbor on the other side of the canal, are also invited to participate.

Here are some more details regarding time, etc., from a press release:

"...we are holding a graphic “lie-down” demonstration on Saturday, August 18th that will say to the City of Indianapolis and the Army Corp of Engineers: "if you want us to lie down and be sandbagged in, we'll do it just this once!"   There will be aerial photography, as well as on-ground video and photography, documenting this event at approximately 1:00 p.m.  Both residents and non-residents will be gathering at 11:00 a.m. at Hohlt Park on 53rd Street in Rocky Ripple, and at 12 noon we will begin our march to the 53rd Street Bridge off of Westfield Blvd., and begin our demonstration.

.... We do not want to become the future "Ninth Ward" of New Orleans.   It is our understanding that Butler University, Citizens Water, and the Butler Tarkington Community Association are also against any of the plans that the Army Corp has presented to the City of Indianapolis.  They will be releasing their own press releases at a different time."

Thanks to my friend in RR who provided details of this. More to come as things develop.




varangianguard [unverified] said:

How much more (or less) would it cost to include Rocky Ripple in the floodwall plan?

How much protection would this afford Rocky Ripple? Against 50 yr, 100 yr, 1000 yr, 10000 yr flooding?

I wonder what the other groups have against the Levee plan? And, I hope it isn't aesthetic.

Beyond emotional attachment, is Rocky Ripple really worth the effort?

What is the alternative if Rocky Ripple is returned to nature? Mosquito breeding grounds? Groomed nature?

What are the political ramifications here? Who pushed the residents to turn their backs on the Corps the last time? And, why?

2012-08-14 12:47:31

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Hey, varangianguard: who the heck do you expect to answer your questions?

There's no investigative journalist around to do it since The Star abdicated its role as public watchdog.

2012-08-14 16:44:04

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Hey, varangianguard: who the heck do you expect to answer your questions?

There's no investigative journalist around to do it since The Star abdicated its role as public watchdog.

2012-08-14 16:44:05

hendy [Member] said:

The isthmus of Rocky Ripple has been in jeopardy for years, but unlike those near 75th & Keystone, they're not very prepared for it. When the levees were bandied about a while back, there could have been a referendum, and a way to fund and build a levee better than what's there. It's in a flood zone. That didn't happen. Now the price has gone up. What to do now? Buy insurance. Or, don't buy property in a flood plain if you don't want it to flood. It's not the job of government to rescue you from your bad choices, IMHO. Calamity? Sure. Flood in a flood plain? There has to be a line drawn where the government doesn't have to ban construction in flood zones because people ought to be smart enough not to build there. But they aren't.

Could the White River have drowned W Broad Ripple? Sure. Now there's a big fat levee there that will hopefully prevent drowning homes from Riverside Dr down to Illinois St. Did Rocky Ripple jump up and down and say ME TOO! No.

I know people that live there. They're waiting for the big one. They've been waiting for the big one. Some are insured. many are not. Do they need to litigate, as an unincorporated Town inside Indianapolis? Sure. It's going to take money. No surprise there. All solutions in these circumstances will require it. Ninth Ward? Har. The Ninth Ward had a higher expectation when it was built; RR does not.

2012-08-14 17:21:32

Seneca [Member] said:

Can it be? Is there a group of people in Indianapolis that actually WANTS help from the federal government? Whatever happened to self reliance, keep-the-government-out-of-our-businesses and pocketbooks and other right-wing nutcase bulls---? Are the tea baggers aware of this? Perhaps they could counsel the good people of Rocky Ripple about the perils and horrors (in their opinion) of involvement with the federal government.

This (among other lies and just plan crap) is what the tea baggers and their ilk have been spreading ever since the President's inauguration.

And the contempt for the President started at his inaugural. The distinguished chief justice of the United States presumed to think that he could administer the oath of office from memory. Turns out he couldn't, and had to have a redo.

2012-08-14 19:56:28

varangianguard [unverified] said:

C'mon, Ms. Cynical, some of my questions might be answered right here by our host or some loyal readers. ;) Maybe?

2012-08-15 04:00:25

sjudge [unverified] said:

The New Orleans reference is pretty dead on - both RR and NO were allowed to develop upon land that was destined to flood on a regular basis, and which was absolutely fabulous land for growing crop for that very reason. New Orleans eventually reached what's arguably too big to fail size, but there's reasonable debate over whether RR has done the same.

Now that Citizen's Water, as well as Butler U. have waded (couldn't resist that one) it's pretty clear that the current Corps plan will be rethought. Still, it's pretty clear that its next incarnation won't necessarily protect every tree in the area, won't make every home's view idyllic, or save every silly home building site in RR.

The sad part of all this squabble is that we'll see even more delay in establishing long term flood protection for the White River flood plain, and will increase the prospects of another devastating flood in that area. Cost is a huge factor in getting the protection in place, and we've now lost a lot of representation in Washington that had the clout to get a decent project ever funded. That's not meant to describe the current Corps plan as decent, because it isn't.

What's needed, and quickly, is a plan that will offer flood protection, and protection that stands a chance of being funded. Conversations about individual trees, views of the canal from individual houses, and protection of some ill conceived homes in RR are silly and will only maintain the current status of doing nothing.

2012-08-15 07:21:41

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

Army Corps of Engineers don't really have that great a track record of actual flood protection on inland waterways. I covered too many floods in rural Indiana communities that were supposedly secure behind levees and locks/dams/reservoirs but due to specific meteorological anomalies were damaged nonetheless. In my humble opinion, the best solution for residents of Rocky Ripple is forget about infrastructure since the issue is actually about personal exposure to loss. Therefore, it would make sense for residents to form a cooperative insurance plan that would protect homeowners/members from exorbitant financial losses. The cooperative would "levy" flood protection fees to members and thus build up a fund equal to assessed valuations. Interest generated by the fund could be used to reduce the levy or increase the level of financial protection.

2012-08-15 09:07:53

whosear [Member] said:

George, you should look to Fort Wayne as the model of federal-state & local cooperation on flood control. After the devastating 82 flood that threatened historic portions of the older parts, The Fort Wayne metro area has taken drastic and comprehensive steps to change the watersheds. In the neighborhood of my youth, over 10 houses were purchased and torn down for a flood plain, a former business district is now Headwaters Park, and the drainage flow was changed back to into historic norm in one section of town. My aunt and uncle who lives on the St Joe River now have a large levee on their property.

Flood control is a works in progress. Ft Wayne had severe flooding in 2002 & 2003, albeit restricted to other areas. They have moved to protect these areas as well.

2012-08-15 12:28:59

whosear [Member] said:

In the 90's when I was an intern with the Marion County S & W Conservation Service, I attended a meeting with the Ravenswood neighborhood concerning flood control. It became obvious to us that a majority didn't want flood control, because they'd rather collect from flood insurance.

Not sure why Rocky Ripple elected out of the plan. Flood control, like National Defense, has to include everyone within the affected area. It was foolish to not include them in the orginal plan. Perhaps it was done because legal action by RR would have held up going forward on the comprehensive plan.

When you warn people and they don't listen, and then want your help after they're in trouble, it's foolish to risk yourself to try to save them.

2012-08-15 12:33:39

hendy [Member] said:

Long ago, my late father worked with the CoE in the Patoka River project. Sure it made great farm lands, and lots of bogs and swamps. My memories are of watching people row to work and/or wear their waders as they crossed the flood waters to Jasper Desk and Kimball. Enterprising people would row a few across for a dime or so (ok, this was in the 1960s).

Were it I, zoning would have restricted building, but RR wasn't in the city, it was in the Old West of the county, where you could get away with about anything, zoning-wise.

2012-08-15 15:53:40

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

Fort Wayne flood control is probably a good model in terms of its applicability in an urban geography. It probably had the political oomph, too, to get it done. Plus, it was another era in the 80s and 90s when fed money was readily available for these projects. All the same, Fort Wayne still had troubles in the early 2000s, as one of the writers observed. The problem with inland flood protection is that it never truly solves the problem. If a plan protects one area, another area is generally affected at some time in the future. That's just the way hydrology works. The dams and "flood control" on the Ohio River tributaries were installed basically to create reservoirs that would guarantee water flow to the Ohio because severe and unstoppable sedimentation along the Ohio -- due to the locks and dams -- altered the topography and tended to make the river broader and more shallow. Those inland projects were sold as flood control. But in recent Mississippi flood events, the so-called advantage of impoundment was abandoned when those reservoirs threatened to overflow. When that happens and water gets behind a levee then you really have a problem and as in New Orleans, it is apocalyptic. I suspect this project on the White River is much more about mitigating the considerable damages posed by a catastrophic flood in downtown Indy and especially in the Canal development zones. The project may save that area, but another area will become a disaster zone. As tragic as a flood is, the previous writer is also pretty much spot-on in noting that the major concern of victims is property and loss replacement. I still believe the best approach to that is not by moving tons of earth and pouring mountains of concrete (in addition to the costs of purchasing properties and litigating through eminent domain in the construction zones), but, rather would be through a cooperative insurance plan specifically for those in the Rocky Ripple floodplain. While they wouldn't have any control over the water, they would have be able to possess better flood insurance and at rates a landholder could better afford. Anyway...floods, just a weird interest area of mine, honed as a young reporter. I always hated covering them. Unlike a fire that consumes everything, the victims could still see all they owned in a ruined condition. Somehow, the losses seemed more pitiful.

2012-08-15 16:06:16

Write Man [Member] said:

Dear Ms. Cynical,
Forgive me, please, but the Star seemed to me -- to me -- to be a public watchdog only on the issues it saw fit to investigate. This isn't to say at one point the paper didn't have splendid investigative reporters, only that the paper pursued those issues that fit within its publishers' field of interest (and agenda), so to speak. So this is only one in a long list of sins of omission?

2012-08-15 18:02:13

Write Man [Member] said:

Dear Ms. Cynical,
Forgive me, please, but the Star seemed to me -- to me -- to be a public watchdog only on the issues it saw fit to investigate. This isn't to say at one point the paper didn't have splendid investigative reporters, only that the paper pursued those issues that fit within its publishers' field of interest (and agenda), so to speak. So this is only one in a long list of sins of omission?

2012-08-15 18:02:16

VladTheImpaler [unverified] said:

If I'm reading the convoluted Army Corps latest report properly, it appears the the cost for the floodwall project would be $50.3 million if including Rocky Ripple protection vs. $14.4 million for the Corps' preferred plan that leaves out Rocky Ripple.

The Rocky Ripple alignment would also require the taking of 43 structures, like houses.

Much of the cost appears to involve not only building a long wall around RR but also modifications to make sure flood water doesn't back-up through drainage pipes/sewer structures.

2012-08-15 18:15:31

Carol Labashosky, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [unverified] said:

The Army Corps of Engineers appreciates your comments regarding the Indianapolis North floodwall and levee project. I encourage readers to go to for current information on the project. The Aug. 23 project open house and hearing details are at this link.

2012-08-17 09:29:43

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2012-08-17 12:23:44

Seneca [Member] said:

According to a story in the Star on Saturday, the town council of Rocky Ripple, in its wisdom, in 1996 voted to reject the Corps of Engineers' plans, despite the Corps' "begging" them to accept.

The next to last paragraph of the article starts "How can intelligent people like that make such stupid decisions?"

Seems awfully shortsighted on Rockey Ripple's part.

Wonder who advised them?

2012-08-18 18:32:36

Seneca [Member] said:

er, that is, Rocky Ripple

2012-08-18 23:09:53

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2012-08-20 08:46:59

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