(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second part of a three-part story examining the Tippecanoe River logjam removal project, which is to begin Thursday. Part two, which will include an interview with Nash Brallier, who is opposed to the project, will be released tomorrow.)
After nearly a year of fundraising, a project to clear 47 of the 111 total logjams blocking the Tippecanoe River is set to begin Thursday. The project, which was made possible by a Lakes and Rivers Enhancement grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, aims to clean the river of debris in order to attempt to mitigate flooding along the river and surrounding waterways.
Though many homeowners along the river and other local waterways are hopeful the efforts will bring a positive change, at least person is questioning the validity and safety of the project on the environment.
Recently, a flier, put out by Tippecanoe River property owner Nash Brallier, has circulated through the community demanding that other Tippecanoe River property owners not sign a form from the county allowing them access to the river from their properties. The flier not only questioned whether the public’s opinion was taken into concern and who was involved in the project (see related) but also stated that the removal was unnecessary and dangerous to natural wildlife and fauna.
According to Amy Bloemendaal of Kosciusko County Lakes and Streams, the process of removing logjams aims to reduce erosion and sedimentation in rivers and streams due to the jams. She explained that due to logjams, water can be redirected toward areas of concern, such as roads, stream banks and areas that may “markedly affect stream channel patterns.” She further explained that the process of removing the logjams is of great concern to agencies such as the DNR, especially when weighing the effects on fish, wildlife and other aquatic organisms.
“Woody debris provides a valuable habitat for fish, wildlife and other aquatic organisms, so removal of logjams must be weighed against the impacts on fish and wildlife habitat,” stated Bloemendaal. “Expertise within DNR will be utilized to help determine these potential impacts. If approved, the removal of such logjams must be conducted in a manner that minimizes impact on both the aquatic habitat and the land used to access the stream for logjam removal.”
Bloemendaal said it is recognized that woody debris is an import part of the habitat within the river and stressed the removal process would be limited to areas of greatest severity. She noted that removal would be conducted in an environmentally conscious way.
“The project will not, cannot and in good environmental conscious has no intention to remove all woody debris,” stated Bloemendaal. “The project will only focus on removals in the areas of most severe jamming, which can actually improve the health of the Tippecanoe River and has the potential to help mitigate flooding.”
Both Bloemendaal and Kosciusko County Emergency Management Director Ed Rock stressed the fact that absolutely no dredging will take place during the removal of the logjams and that only light equipment will be utilized. Bloemendaal also noted there will be no clear cutting as a result of the project.
Bloemendaal and Rock agreed that the Palmiter Project, which was mentioned by the protestor, was a solution at the time to protect the river bend from erosion.
“The reach of the project was from approximately 3/4 miles west of Park Schramm Road to Armstrong Road at Oswego,” explained Bloemendaal. “There were several activities included in this project: trees that were leaning over the river were cut, then where necessary anchored to the bank for protection in river bend areas where extensive erosion was occurring; the downed trees blocking the center of the river were cut to open the channel; and in some areas, trees along the river bank and adjacent were cut to allow more sunlight. The part of the project that included downed trees blocking the center of the river were cut to open the channel is similar to the plans of the current project.”
According to Rock, the project will be handled by Gilbert Drainage and Excavating of Wawaka. Though the company was awarded the $111,000 bid, currently $46,000 is available for the project through the LARE grant and a 20 percent match. Rock said much of the match was raised by groups such as the Lake Tippecanoe Property Owners, Pike Lake Property Owners and Center Lake Property Owners. As each logjam is estimated at $1,000 to clear, Rock stated the county plans to pursue additional funding next year to finish the logjam removal process.