Friends has successfully negotiated an agreement with the City of Indianapolis and the US Army Corps of Engineers that will provide for preservation of riverbank trees along more than 80% of a segment of the waterway on the city’s north side. In addition, it will provide for improvement of river access on two sites within some of the highest quality fish and wildlife habitat in the metropolitan area.
Work originally proposed on the Warfleigh Levee between Westfield Boulevard and Kessler Avenue had called for the removal of “an undetermined amount of trees” down to the shoreline in a permit sought from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) that was filed a year ago. Friends questioned the need for removing so many mature hardwood species as an ongoing part of a flood control project that began in the 1990s. The proposal quickly became controversial last December, as details were revealed at public hearings requested by Friends.
After IDNR issued the permit for the work this summer, our organization filed an administrative challenge of the decision in cooperation with the Conservation Law Center. The effort resulted in an agreement this month that will allow the Corps to proceed with more limited timberland vegetation removal, which the agency claims is necessary. And it will provide for, at the expense of the governmental agencies, creation of a new recreational access point that can be used by canoeists, kayakers, anglers, birdwatchers and others at Friedmann Park, just below the Kessler Avenue bridge. In addition, an existing and heavily used carry-in launch upstream of College Avenue and just below the Monon Trail will be upgraded and improved.
The agreement is a win-win for both recreational users of White River and nearby homeowners concerned with adequate flood protection. It will be formalized to include additional details relating to habitat restoration required within the project, as well as for additional mitigation work that is to be done elsewhere in the watershed.