By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
Widening Big Cicero Creek to hold more water upstream of Tipton and digging a bypass channel around the city are among the proposals to prevent flooding like that which occurred April 19. There are as many as 20 options ranging in price from $1.7 million to $66 million to choose from, the Big Cicero Creek Drainage Board learned Wednesday.
The April flood left in its wake extensive damage to the city of Tipton and covered farm fields with standing water. The board in 2009 proposed a $2.7 million solution to bench, or widen, the creek to hold more water with the ability to gradually release it downstream. That proposal died when local residents weren’t willing to pay the cost.
The board was unwilling to approve funding for a study of the bypass channel proposal, a cost of $41,000, and expressed an interest in sharing the cost.
Tipton County’s surveyor, Jason Henderson, recommended the board approve a contract with Christopher Burke Engineering to study a bypass channel around the south side of Tipton and the impact on the downstream areas of Big Cicero Creek.
Board member Byron Loveless asked who would pay the $41,000. Henderson said it was anticipated the board would cover the costs.
“Should Tipton and Tipton County help pay?” Loveless said.
Wyatt Johnson, Tipton city engineer, said local residents already pay $80 per parcel to the board.
The board already spent $141,000 to study widening the channel, Loveless said.
“We can’t ever stop the flooding in Tipton County,” he said. “It will be just like the last time, people won’t want to pay.”
Tipton Mayor Don Havens said the study cost pales in comparison to the losses suffered in the city and county from the flooding.
“The community desperately needs help,” he said. “We’re looking for partners.”
Havens said Indiana Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the area’s congressional delegation are willing to be partners, but there has to be a lead partner.
“I don’t know where to turn for a lead partner, if not this group,” he said. “I appeal to you to be a partner. There needs to be a plan and you’re the group to develop a plan.”
The Big Cicero Creek board consists of elected officials from Clinton, Tipton and Hamilton counties.
Henderson said as proposed benching of the creek bed would take place from north of Tipton to the Tipton/Hamilton county line to the south.
“It boils down to the money,” he said. “Residents have to pay for it.”
Henderson said benching would not have completely eliminated the recent flooding.
He said a bypass south of Tipton would cost between $8 million and $10 million and would require federal funding.
The projected cost to property owners is between $1,500 and $2,000 over five years.
Sivash Beik, with CBE, said the bypass option appears to have more benefits than benching when it comes to flooding.
“You have to choose an option and look at the negative impact,” he said. “With the current flooding, look at the most expensive option.”
Beik said the board has three options: Do nothing, work a smaller project like benching or completing the larger bypass project.
“Either option will send water more rapidly downstream,” he said. “Is that tolerable in Hamilton County?”
Beik said a bypass will address 95 percent of the problems during a 100-year flood as compared to 40 percent of the flooding issue if the benching project moves forward.
“If you don’t want to fund the larger project, there is no reason to fund the study,” he said.
Beik said there will be more frequent and bigger floods in the future and a comprehensive plan is needed.
Board member Steve Schwartz said by completing the benching project, the board is still setting the community up for disaster.
“If we’re going to do it, do it right,” he said. “Some people don’t have water in their yards, but we’re a community and help each other.”
The board decided to table the request to fund the bypass study until the June 26 for further clarification of the scope of work.
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