Drainage hadn’t been a big concern for residents before the historic 2008 floods but has since become a top issue in many communities.
Cities and towns across Johnson County have put in wider drains, installed bigger pipes and cleared logjams that clogged overflowing creeks during the flood. They’ve fixed stormwater pipes that burst and cleared out storm drain grates, in the hope of keeping floodwater from rising into homes and businesses again.
Damage from the 2008 flood has continued to turn up across the county because it wasn’t all noticed right away, Johnson County Surveyor Doug Lechner said. His office has been repairing eroded stream banks that have been periodically reported — including within the last year.
Franklin, Greenwood and Whiteland all have established new stormwater utilities since the flooding swept across the county in 2008, partly in order to have a way to pay for projects to upgrade or repair drainage infrastructure. The utilities charge residents a monthly fee in order to pay for work aimed at making flooding less likely, and also cutting down on pollution in creeks and other waterways.
And now, governments are planning to use the money collected by those new utilities to address drainage issues that have led to flooding in the past, such as along creeks and in low-lying areas.
Greenwood, for instance, set up a new stormwater utility that’s planning $19 million worth of work over the next decade, including replacing rusting pipes and rebuilding eroded ditches.
The city is considering 15 different projects in areas that are prone to flooding, and the price tags could range between $18,000 to nearly $8 million. For instance, Greenwood could install rain gardens in islands in the vast parking lot surrounding the Greenwood Park Mall, invest $7.7 million in a massive water basin and figure out how to keep Pleasant Creek from flooding, Community Development Services Director Mark Richards said.
“We can address the flooding upstream,” he said. “A dry detention pond by the airport would solve a great deal.”
Pleasant Creek and Pleasant Run Creek both jumped their banks during the 2008 flood, causing severe flooding in the Bo-Mar neighborhood and a commercial area along Madison Avenue. A few Old Town residents who live near the creek got water in their basements, crawl spaces and garages, and people in newer neighborhoods were able to kayak in the street before the floodwater subsided.
Engineers still need to study what exactly must be done to address areas that have commonly flooded, such as Bo-Mar Lane, Richards said.
Work is expected to begin this summer on a project that is aimed to prevent flooding along Pleasant Creek in the Old Town, stormwater utility director Lissa Ruhlman said. The creek spilled over its banks in 2008, and filled Old City Park with water that got into the adjacent Greenwood Public Library.
Greenwood will pay for that work and future drainage projects with a new $5-a-month fee the city began charging residents and property owners when the new stormwater utility was formed.
Franklin also was able to adopt a fee, largely because the flood gave city council members the courage to approve it, former mayor Fred Paris said. The city has since used that money to install new drainage under Main Street in a massive project that should prevent much of the flooding that damaged and destroyed neighborhoods of homes in 2008.
“The flood made it clear that drainage had to be improved in the future,” Paris said.
Whiteland also created a new utility and borrowed about $740,000 for work that will lessen the risk of flooding on the east side of the railroad tracks near Main, Pearl and Poplar streets.
As part of the project, workers will make drainage pipes at least twice as large, stormwater director Chris Jones said. Construction should begin later this summer, he said.
Edinburgh did a similar project immediately after the flood, replacing a drainpipe that burst just north of the heavily flooded Pruitt East neighborhood, town council member Ron Hoffman said.
The new drainpipe near State Road 252 is three times as wide in circumference and has successfully prevented flooding since 2008.
Town workers also fixed and cleaned up more than 50 stormwater grates throughout Edinburgh, Hoffman said.
“Some of them were broken or filled with a lot of debris,” he said.
Edinburgh is working to get grants for several more drainage projects the town could eventually do, he said.
“We’re looking at a grant,” he said. “It takes money.”
What: Will repair a failed retaining wall along Pleasant Creek and stabilize the bank in the Old Town
Why: Minimize flooding from Pleasant Creek across the city
Cost estimate: $1.9 million
What: Install underground water detention basin, rain gardens or bigger drainage pipes at Greenwood Park Mall, to capture rainwater that soaks businesses along Madison Avenue across from the mall
Why: The commercial area is in a 100-year floodplain, and businesses have flooded
Cost estimate: $1 million
What: Installed larger drainage pipes along South Baldwin Drive
Why: Water backed up in the old pipes, causing flooding in yards along the street.
What: Installed a new drainage pipe along State Road 252 and reinforced it in concrete
Why: Floodwater burst the old pipe, contributing to flooding in the Pruitt East subdivision and other eastside neighborhoods.
What: Digging wider and deep trenches along International and Industrial drives, digging a new rainwater-collection pond near the police station.
Why: Large employers such as Caterpillar suffered flooding
What: Installing new drainage pipes under North Main Street
Why: Drainage problems have caused flooding
Cost: $4.4 million
What: Repaired drainage pipes under the Louisville and Indiana Railroad tracks
Why: The pipes had collapsed, contributing to flooding east of the tracks.