Brainard addresses flooding concerns

Flooding on Emerson Road earlier this month. (Submitted photo courtesy of Charlie Demler)
Flooding on Emerson Road earlier this month.
(Submitted photo courtesy of Charlie Demler)

Central Indiana has seen one of the wettest summers in recent history. And when heavy rainfall hits the already saturated soil, the ground can’t hold any more water and flooding becomes a problem.

Carmel got almost two inches of rain on July 13 and 14 alone, bringing the total for the month up to eight inches.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said it’s probably the worst case of flooding he’s seen since Labor Day 2003. That’s when eight to 10 inches of rain fell in about 30 hours’ time.

“During that event, we had rowboats out to help people who were stuck in their homes,” he said. “We’re lucky it’s not that bad this summer. And we’re fortunate that Carmel deals with flooding much better than other areas, even many of our neighboring communities saw much worse flooding.”

Heavy storms recently caused around 35,000 customers of Indianapolis Power & Light to be without electricity in Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson and Marion counties.

High water forced Smokey Row Road west of Range Line to close temporarily.

In some parts of town, the rainwater runoff caused sewage backups. At the Carmel Clay Historical Society, located off the Monon, volunteers worked quickly to make sure flooding didn’t damage historical archives. The Mezz 42, recently opened next to The Palladium, saw rainwater cause sewage to back up in the toilets in one of its businesses.

Some of these concerns are the responsibility of private landowners, some are the concerns of the county or township and others fall into the realm of the city.

Many of these concerns are the reason why Carmel created a Storm Water District utility in 2014, as a way to collect revenue from homes to use to fund improvement projects. City Engineer Jeremy Kashman heads the utility and the first main project is fixing flooding problems on Emerson Road in the Johnson Addition.

Some fixes are quick and inexpensive, such as repairing a culvert. Some ways to reduce the effects of flooding include education and preventative measures, such as clearing out storm drains.

But the major reconstruction projects can take a year and can cost somewhere around $5 million, which is around the amount of money the new utility will raise annually, which means at the current pace the city can only really tackle one major project a year unless the city borrows money.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to consider using a bond to start a couple of these projects at once and catch up,” Brainard said.

Some Carmel residents have e-mailed the city frustrated that flooding areas have not been fixed sooner.

Brainard said it’s hard to tell people to be patient when they want immediate results. He said the problem will get fixed but he wants to remind people that it’s much worse in other localities.

Brainard said he believes each project to improve flooding will be determined by an analysis by the city engineer, not by politics or which neighborhoods pay the most in property taxes.