Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 23, 2013

City moving ahead on flood control

Flood-prone properties continue being targeted

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Without much fanfare, the city of Kokomo has been acquiring properties to the south of the Wildcat Creek, as part of an emerging strategy to control future flooding.

The city now owns a dozen properties in a flood-prone depression centered around Carter and Murden streets, making the area a focal point as city officials look for ways to increase flood storage capacity.

That’s not to say city officials are ready to reveal their flood control plans just yet.

“It’s mainly just to give relief to the property owners,” Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said of the property acquisitions Friday. “It is part of the plan, but the details haven’t been worked out yet.”

There’s little mystery as to why the Carter/Murden and Park Avenue areas keep flooding, as they’ve done around half a dozen times in little more than the past decade.

Floodplain areas that used to store and slowly release flood waters have been filled in by developers, leaving fewer places for storm waters to go. One of the poorest areas of the city, the Carter/Murden hollow appears to have become a de facto retention basin, even as families have tried to occupy the few remaining, flood-damaged homes there.

That’s why the city has been acquiring properties in the Carter/Murden area for more than a decade.

Even before the massive flood in 2003, which saw emergency crews evacuate Carter and Murden streets with boats, the city was tearing down houses in the area.

All of the homes in those streets have been repeatedly flooded, with perhaps one or two exceptions where the owners elevated the foundations.

Since the basin endured the city’s highest-ever recorded flood levels on April 19 of this year, the pace of acquisition appears to have increased, with the city Board of Public Works & Safety accepting the donations of at least three addresses.

The board of works discussed issuing an order to demolish on one of the addresses, 226 E. Murden St., before accepting the donation of the property. Wednesday, the city accepted a quitclaim deed for a duplex at 216 & 218 E. Murden St.

Goodnight, who met in a private session last week with business leaders, at least one county official and the owners of property in Kokomo’s flood zone, said the city continues to look for properties to acquire in the affected area.

Individuals who attended the meeting said the Carter/Murden area wasn’t the only one city officials are eyeing as potential future sites for flood retention. Areas east of the city, as well as floodplain areas recently filled in as part of the Continental Steel environmental cleanup, were also discussed.

Goodnight said the city is at least a couple weeks away from announcing anything.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces to this: the value of the property, the amount of flood damage, available funds ... just the ability to work out some sort of compromise,” Goodnight said.

He said it was too early to discuss the city’s ultimate goal for the flood-prone area near the creek, but said the property acquisition “is probably in everyone’s best interests.”

The city is expected to demolish the structures it acquires.

“There’s no urgency, but I do feel we have some obligation to help resolve this issue,” he said.

“We’re working to mitigate flooding substantially,” he added. “I can’t say we’ll never have any flooding, but we’re doing what we can to mitigate the severity.”

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.

The city of Kokomo now owns these addresses on East Carter and East Murden streets, along with four vacant lots: 224 E. Carter St. 316 & 318 E. Carter St. 225 E. Carter St. 311 E. Carter St. 321 E. Carter St. 222 E. Murden St. 315 E. Murden St. 226 E. Murden St.