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DOLLARS WASH DOWNSTREAM: S.Whitley challenges erosion of Eel River

January 25, 2013

The West riverbank of Eel River in South Whitley is experiencing rapid erosion. Town officials are considering what options might lessen or stop the bank from subsiding. Post & Mail photo / Christie Barkley

SOUTH WHITLEY — Although the wastewater treatment plant is nearing its completion, South Whitley has another costly water issue.

The west bank of the Eel River is eroding and could possibly expose or damage new sewer piping being laid near the bank.

“In just a matter of days, we saw the bank erode several inches after the rain and wet weather,” said David Harvey with Fleis & Vandernbrink Engineering, Inc. the engineering firm overseeing the wastewater treatment plant project.

At Tuesday’s town council meeting, members were told of the costs involved to install a river bank stabilization feature.

After assessing the bank and the pattern of erosion, a bio-engineered system was proposed and permitted. According to the proposal, large stones would line the river bank.

Rip-rap would include shrubs and native grasses to help anchor soil to the embankment. Indiana Department of Environmental Management prefers the bio-engineered option, although other stabilization choices exist.

But council members are not so quick to buy into the idea. With a price tag of more than $450,000, councilman Steve Smith offered his reservations to the council.

Using other stabilization methods would raise the price tag closer to a half million dollars or more. Harvey cautioned the council to not jump ship on the bio-engineered option for a couple of reasons.

Regardless of what might line the riverbank, the council is concern with the money.

Originally, the stabilization project was estimated to cost $300,000. Tuesday, the council was informed of the elevated expense.

Larger rock was credited for the increase in cost. With the severity of the erosion, using larger rock will ensure it will not wash away.

Town Manager Dave Wilkinson is working with different government agencies to locate possible grants to fund some of the cost. There is a possible low interest loan that the town might be able to tap into.

Harvey reiterated to the council that the construction work along the west bank is not what has escalated the erosion. It is, however, what has magnified the problem.

For a more in-depth look at this story, see the Jan. 25 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition. For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage and find us on facebook.

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