By Steven Meyer
Several Indiana counties, including Gibson and Daviess, are under flood warnings as significant stream and river flooding is expected over the next few days. Above average rainfall has combined with melting snow to create earlier than normal spring flooding across Southwest Indiana. Today, flooding forced local officials to close State Road 257 just south of Washington, Indiana.
Stories about flooding in Southwest Indiana have become increasingly common over the last few years. There is, however, more to the story than just flooding and road closures. The flooding that has closed S.R. 257 is less than five miles upstream from where New Terrain I-69 is supposed to cross the East Fork White River. At the location where I-69 bridge is planned, the floodplain is about 2 1/4 miles wide. However, in an attempt to cut costs, INDOT has proposed constructing a bridge that is only about ¼ mile long. The rest of the floodplain will be spanned by building up about 20-25 feet of fill material and laying the highway on top. As a result, flood waters will back up and the regulatory flood levels in the area will be up to a foot higher than they are now. In order to move ahead with this plan, INDOT is trying to buy almost 6,000 acres of flood easements from the local landowners.
With HEC’s support, many of the local farmers who grow crops on that land are fighting back. The flood waters are rising fast enough without a multi-billion dollar highway adding to the mess. For them and many other rural Hoosiers, New Terrain I-69 means nothing more than deeper flood waters and local road closures destroying their way of life.