CHURUBUSCO, Ind. (WANE) — For several years, residents and board members for the Blue Lake Association in Churbusco have been trying to solve a problem but haven’t been finding answers.
Steve Swygart, a resident who lives along the lake, reached out to WANE 15 on Thursday about this issue. A culvert pipe that happens to be the only outflow of water from the lake into the Blue River collapsed on itself and is hindering the flow of water.
The backup has caused Blue Lake’s levels to rise and flood people’s properties. Some have come dangerously close to having water inside their homes according to Swygart.
Swygart and Blue Lake Association President David Waterman met with WANE 15. They said they’ve talked to the Indiana DNR, Whitley County officials, and the man who owns the property where the culvert exists and haven’t been able to figure out who is responsible for it.
“It’s to the point now where we just feel like something needs to be done. That’s why we’re kind of getting involved with you to get it out there in the public’s eye,” Swygart said. “It’s very concerning. We’ve got a 90-year-old lady who lives down at the west end of the lake. It’s [The water] is practically in her house.”
WANE 15 reached out to the property owner, a spokesman for the DNR, Amy Biggs with the Whitley County EMA, and Whitley County Commissioner George Schrumpf.
The owner of the land bought it with the culvert pipe already in place. He told WANE 15 that he believed it was the DNR’s responsibility.
Biggs said because the water is within the DNR’s jurisdiction and on private property, the county is limited in what it can do.
She said they’ve provided sandbags to the homeowners and have had every security measure in place if flooding becomes bad it order to make sure everyone was safe.
Commissioner Schrumpf said the commissioners provided money several years back to help fix a flap at the end of the culvert pipe that prevents river water from dumping back into the lake, and they’re willing to contribute money again if its for a more permanent fix.
Here’s the answer WANE 15 got that no one else has been able to get before: DNR spokesman Marty Benson said via email that the DNR never issued a permit because the culvert pipe is on private land.
When asked to clarify if that means all the association has to do is get permission from the property owner and then they can dig the culvert out of there to get water flowing again, Benson responded:
“With the permission of the land owner (if the association does not own the failing culvert and flap gate), the association can remove the failing culvert and flap gate without getting a DNR permit. Installing any new structural features, would need prior review through the DNR permitting process. If the association plans to remove the failing culvert and flap gate, they should coordinate such actions with the County’s Surveyor and the County Emergency Management Director.”
This means, at the very least the association can dig the culvert pipe out and get water flowing again. If they did want a new structure in place, that would require a permit from the DNR.
WANE 15 sent that information to Swygart and Waterman. They were thankful for the help in getting the process moving and are hoping to take immediate action with more rain in this week’s forecast.