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Great Lakes Article:

Good news washes up on MC flood plain
Hundreds of residents will save $500-$800
By Daniel Przybyla
LaPorte Herald-Argus (IN)
Published December 1st, 2004

MICHIGAN CITY — Construction will begin this month on the $7 million-plus flood-control project that will save some 500 homeowners from having to pay $500 to $800 a year in flood insurance.

Tonn and Blank Inc. will soon begin the task of removing 500,000 cubic yards of dirt — 40,000 truckloads — from the 47-acre site off Hitchcock Road that will be developed into a 10-foot-deep wetland, complete with walking trails, bridges, a gazebo, two picnic shelters and a pavilion.

In a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon, city officials touted the Earl Road Flood Control Facility as a project that has the practical benefit of removing 500 homeowners in two neighborhoods — Forest Manor and Village Green — from a flood plain they have been a part of since 1981.

The wetland, rather than the residential areas, will now serve as the flood plain.

In addition to eliminating a required annual flood insurance premium, the wetland will provide environmental and aesthetic benefits, including recreational opportunities to residents and academic opportunities to students, officials said.

More than 19,000 plants will be planted throughout the wetland and 620 trees around its perimeter, said Dave McCormick, managing engineer for Christopher D. Burke Engineering.

“It’s just not a hole in the ground,” Michigan City Councilman Ron Meer said.

Excess rainwater from the Striebel arm of the nearby Kintzele Ditch will flow into the wetland at the southeast end and will be carried along in a stream carved through the wetland before emptying back into the ditch near the northeast end. The water in the ditch eventually pours into Lake Michigan.

But the huge area to detain storm water isn’t big enough to hold water during the biggest rain events, officials said.

The wetland will be able to detain 250 acres of water at 1 foot deep. McCormick said he could foresee it overflowing into the ditch during heavy rainstorms. When that happens, he said, wetland structures would make sure the water runs slowly into the ditch.

The city has yet to purchase the remaining 20 acres on the north end of the project, which will be acquired through eminent domain. The 20 acres of the south end cost the city $268,000.

The design and engineering costs are $300,000, while the construction price tag is $6.3 million. The entire project is being paid mostly with riverboat funds.

A majority of the wetland construction will be done by October 2005 and it should be entirely completed by spring 2006.

“This is a historic moment,” Village Green resident George Neagu said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We brought a community voice to vocalizing our concerns and our desire to maintain the beauty and charm of the area.”

Under former Michigan City Mayor Sheila Brillson, the city designed a plan that essentially called for a hole in the ground with a fence around it that would have sent property values downward and heightened the presence of West Nile virus, Neagu said.

But when Brillson heard about residents’ concerns, including Neagu, who helped to form the Village Green flood committee in 1999, momentum started building for a design that would better enhance the neighborhood.

“I think without the community voice heard — and heard loudly — I don’t think it would have gotten to this point today. It took the voice of the community, 500 homes strong, to make this happen,” Village Green Neighborhood Association President Rob Eden said.

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