Facing the Floods of Roanoke

By Megan Trent

March 14, 2012 Updated Mar 14, 2012 at 6:09 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - With spring just around the corner, flooding concerns are once again a point of conversation in Huntington County.

Representatives from Christopher Burke Engineering, based out of Chicago, met with county officials and concerned citizens in Roanoke Wednesday to unveil the results of a study into flooding along the Little River, Cow Creek, and McPherren Ditch.

The goal of the study was to measure the extent of flooding in the area and outline possible solutions and their associated costs. Director of Water Resources for Christopher Burke Engineering, Siavash Beik, says doing nothing would mean making a bad problem worse in years to come.

The study found that the flooding on roads, agricultural lands, businesses, and homes was significant. 33 structures in Roanoke, the focal point of Wednesday's meeting, flooded during times of heavy rain. 12 structures had more than three feet of standing water. That number also increases during major floods, and would only continue to rise if steps aren't taken to correct the problem.

Potential solutions included floodproofing, voluntary buyouts, dams, levees, detentions basins, diversion, raising road levels, and much more. Some of the options came with a price tag in excess of $10million. Beik says the only option that would significantly reduce damage to the area and the amount of flooding comes down to buyouts.

"The best way we think it can be addressed is to open that corridor up and stay out of the flood's way so the water can go through the ditches freely. That would be the end point, but how do we get to that end point? Obviously, people don't want to give up their businesses or their homes along the ditch, but that's the only sustainable situation in the long run."

Huntington County surveyor Jay Poe says even that option isn't financially feasible all at once, so making minor improvements along the way is key. He says residents need to get away from the mentality that rebuilding despite significant risk is the best option, and instead choose to rebuild elsewhere if their property is damaged during a flood. FEMA grants could also aid in offering property owners voluntary buyouts over the years.

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