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March 18, 2013

River wall poses questions of responsibility

City considers costs, regulations and responsibilities

The recent collapse of part of a river wall along the Eel River has Logansport considering costs, regulations and responsibilities regarding how it will address and prevent possible collapses in the future.

The most recent problem the river wall along the Eel River was in January at a shared garage at 207 and 211 E. Linden Ave. Part of the garage was built on top of the mortar river wall and when the wall collapsed, it took part of the garage and much of its contents down with it.

The Department of Public Works and Safety has considered several solutions to the problem at the shared garage, including pouring a new concrete wall, installing a wall made from steel sheeting and simply sloping the earth back to the property before applying seed and mulch.

Bill Drinkwine, Logansport building commissioner, said he has been in contact with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on how to go about addressing the situation.

Andrew Roberts, a regulatory specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Louisville District, whose jurisdiction area includes Logansport, said his department works with cities on projects like this to ensure regulations are met.

“Typically we regulate the discharge of dredge or fill material into waters,” Roberts said. “Anything that may affect the waterways in the U.S., they definitely need to give us a call.”

Roberts said the corps reviews finalized projects to determine what kind of permitting would be necessary, adding that permitting may also be required by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Drinkwine recommended installing concrete blocks in a stair-step fashion from the riverbank back to the property to stabilize the slope, saying it was the most economical and efficient. The Logansport Board of Public Works and Safety endorsed Drinkwine’s recommendation at a recent meeting.

Another issue facing the city is how the project and possible future ones are going to be paid for. Drinkwine estimated the stair-step solution on East Linden Avenue to cost between $7,500 and $8,000. He said the bill would be split between the two owners sharing the garage. If they were unable to pay, a tax lien would be applied to the property.

The property at 207 E. Linden Ave. is owned by Jeff Murray and the one at 211 is owned by Russell Alder. Drinkwine said Alder’s insurance policy does not cover auxiliary structures like the garage. He has not yet gotten in touch with Murray, whom the city has repeatedly tried to contact regarding problems with several of his properties in town.

Drinkwine said he’s concerned about financial aspects of the river wall in the future as well.

“I’m a little concerned about establishing a precedent for repairing the river headwall as a burden to the city,” Drinkwine said, adding that he’s discovered there are riverside plats in town that define ownership as being up to the river wall, suggesting the wall itself would be the city’s responsibility.

Drinkwine said he is currently working to define how the city should go about addressing the walls in the future.

“We’re going to have to develop a plan,” Drinkwine said. “It’s something that we’re going to continue to investigate and work with, utilizing the Army Corps of Engineers’ information as well as what we can pull together and come up with a recommendation on how we handle these walls in the future.”

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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