FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — For months, a battle has raged between some residents of the Northside Neighborhood Association and the company behind a proposal along the St. Joseph River that would include a restaurant and a dock to launch pontoon boats.
“A commercial facility will be developed along the north bank of the river. Within the floodway; a floating pier with an ADA access ramp, a staging area, and an outfall structure will be constructed,” according to a DNR public hearing notice.
The project passed through Fort Wayne City Council despite intense opposition, and now the DNR will be looking at whether or not the project is responsible on the basis of a few different factors.
- The efficiency and capacity of the floodway
- The safety of life or property
- Fish, wildlife or botanical resources
The public hearing on these factors will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at a pavilion located at 3411 Sherman Blvd.
One of those who has opposed the project in the past is river advocate Dan Wire.
“There are elements of this project that are in the floodway, that what comes over the review of the DNR,” Wire said.
He thinks that there are several issues the DNR will have to take note of before allowing the project to begin.
“There are some serious concerns about the dynamic of flood waters,” Wire said.
Wire points out that making a dock with an ADA-accessible ramp will be a massive challenge with the ever-changing state of the rivers.
According to water data from the United States Geological Survey, water levels over the past year have varied by more than 11 feet, and Wire thinks that could make permitting the project tricky.
“The river edge point of the ADA may go under the water pretty quick,” Wire said. “My calculations say that when the river comes up three feet, that entry point will probably be underwater.”
Beyond dock concerns, Wire is worried the development could impact the way the river flows.
“Where these proposed piers are to be put in, there is a bridge pier on the Parnell bridge that directs a tremendous amount of current right against where they will be,” Wire said. “You can see evidence on the bank where there is a lot of woody debris, basically trees that have fallen in and float, they get pushed right over there and deposited on the bank.”
Wire is concerned that the trees that could be pushed into the dock could damage and destroy the docks, carrying them downstream.
Another concern for Wire is an 800-foot-long storm pipe that the DNR identified in their public hearing notice.
“The outfall structure will consist of a 15″ DPE outfall pipe will be buried to a depth of 2′-3′, and the approximately 800-foot-long pipe will carry stormwater from the entire project site to the river,” according to the DNR’s notice.
Wire said taking the water directly to the river will put less water back into the underground aquifer, as water seeps into the ground as it runs along it.
“What we’ve got is a very natural berm, that when we have rain events, this bowl of a property will retain the water, purify the water as it goes through the ground, replenish the aquifers,” Wire said. “We want to keep the water where it falls, not transport it.”
Environmental concerns are also the DNR’s concern, and a survey conducted by the DNR called the Indiana Heritage Data reveals that several species of mollusk located in the river are federally endangered.
In the past, Tom Trent, a lawyer who represents the developer, Joey Tippman, has said the project will not impact the River Greenway.
“The Rivergreenway area is owned by the city. We do not plan to touch that because we don’t own it,” Trent said in March. “Information that has been circulated about us impacting the greenway is false.”
However, it’s unclear how much impact the developers will have on the floodway, the plan involves a 105-foot ramp that will run parallel to the shoreline, and according to the DNR notice a building and parking in the development plan will both be constructed in the floodway.
In August, the DNR sent a report to Tippmann saying that “based on staff reviews, it has been determined that deficiencies have been found in the submittal or that plan[s] revisions are required.”
In the report, the DNR also said Tippmann may be required to get additional permits from the following agencies:
- a local floodplain administrator
- Plan Commission
- Board of Zoning Appeals
- Allen County Drainage Board
- Indiana Department of Environmental Management
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
You can view the public hearing notice below.