Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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November 8, 2013

Battling nature's fury

Middle school students develop projects to help during floods

Jerzie Eagle and Liesl Elkin pointed to their topography map that showed the 8 acres of flood-prone land around Carter and Murden streets in Kokomo.

This is where their arboretum will go once the city tears down the homes destroyed in the last flood, they told Don Cree, wastewater manager for the city of Kokomo.

They have it all planned out. There will be a disc-golf course, a playground with obstacle course and groves of trees of all types — sugar maples, pin oaks, sycamores and white walnuts, tulips and dogwoods and even a black willow.

“It’s very ambitious,” Cree told them. “It’s a cool area.”

The designers smiled.

One had long hair and a pink shirt with a “hug-o-meter” emblazoned on the front. The other wore her hair braided and donned a pink Purdue zip-up hoodie.

They’re students at Central Middle School.

Part of their robotics team project this year required them to come up with a plan to help protect against nature’s fury.

They could choose any natural disaster to combat. They chose floods.

“Flooding is closest to our hearts,” Liesl said. “It happens a lot here and sometimes to people we know.”

They wanted to come up with a practical use for an area of Kokomo that frequently floods.

The city is already buying up homes in the Carter and Murden Street area and tearing them down.

Liesl and Jerzie wanted to find a way to repurpose that land and protect it during heavy rain.

Their first idea was to install a flood wall.

“But flood walls would just mean the water goes to different places,” Jerzie said.

The water would then become someone else’s problem, she said. And that’s not the goal.

Cree told them he was impressed with their insight. Most people who put up flood walls don’t understand that they may be hurting their neighbors, he said.

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