The cold Indiana spring persists, and rain and snow are keeping fields wet. This year northwest Indiana has been hit hard with flooding, and more severely than in the past. The effects are being felt from South Bend down to the western state line along the Kankakee River. Local farmers and lawmakers, including Lowell State Senator Rick Niemeyer, met last week to highlight the problem.
“Everybody was concerned about the flooding, it affected them. A lot of the acreage was under water for many days, and a lot of roads are still under water right now, so it really brought forward that we need to start looking at what we’re going to do because the river is our draining spot. All these ditches that move that way in the Kankakee basin end up in the river and we’ve got to get more capacity and hold that water in better.”
There have been problems in the past but local, state and federal officials need to come up with a concrete plan now. They say there’s no need for a study, just a good plan and funding mechanisms to avoid future flooding.
“We’ve kind of gotten through it by doing what we needed to do, band aid type stuff to fix it,” Niemeyer said. “Now you can fly that river and fly that corridor and you can see the levies that are breached right now, the levies that are very weak, so many trees and obstructions that are in there that we have to do something now to get more capacity in there. I think everybody understands that and that basin really spreads out a long way with storm water going in there. All of the development going on in some of these counties, all that water ends up in that basin faster and quicker. So, now we’ve got to deal with it by getting people involved that, maybe aren’t along the river per se, but maybe are branched out a lot of miles from the river where they send drainage our way.”
He tells HAT five or six counties are involved in talks that include local drainage boards, and once they have a plan including their own “skin in the game,” they can seek federal and state help. The problem was brought to the attention of Senator Joe Donnelly as he met with farmers in Rensselaer recently. He feels there can be assistance from state and federal governments and asked those present to be part of a working group to get help.
Niemeyer is more optimistic now since everyone is on board after severe flooding the entire length of the river basin.
“Before we had some flooding problems maybe in Porter County, Lake County, but not further east, so when this hit everybody, everybody sees the problem and I think there’s going to be some action here. It’s not going to be quick action, as quick as possible but we’ve got to get a plan together.”
He thinks the plan will happen because it appears residents and farmers won’t accept anything less.