Haw Creek cleanup advocates making case

A group advocating a massive cleanup of Haw Creek through Columbus will present evidence tonight to a local board in hopes that it will take further action.

Members of the Bartholomew-Shelby Joint County Drainage Board said during their July 20 meeting that unless Citizens for Haw Creek can show the 6.2-mile lower basin of the waterway was established as a drain by mutual consent of two or more property owners, no further action toward cleaning up Haw Creek will be taken at this time.

The board will hear Citizens for Haw Creek’s response to its challenge when it reconvenes today at 6:30 p.m. in Columbus North High School’s Judson Erne Auditorium.

During the meeting, audience member Dr. Charlie Mitch, chairman of Winding Waters, Columbus’ chapter of the Sierra Club said, “By state law, Haw Creek is defined as a natural water course and not a mutual or legal drain.”

Two days after the meeting, John Boldt, a spokesman for a group sent, out an email that began with a one-word sentence: Help!

Since last month’s meeting, Boldt’s group has been seeking residents who have personal knowledge of how certain segments of Haw Creek have been dredged over the years, according to the email.

“Portions of Haw Creek, as it flows through the city, are clearly not a natural meandering stream — but have been artificially dredged,” Boldt wrote.

He identified five straight stretches with excavated soil deposited in high spoil banks on one or both sides of the waterway as examples.

South of the railroad bridge to East Fork White River

Between the State Street and Seventh Street bridges, adjacent to the Cummins Tech Center

Between the 10th Street and 17th Street bridges through Greenbelt Golf Course

The high ridge just south of 25th Street

Between the 25th Street and National Road (U.S. 31) bridges near Eastbrook Plaza.

Boldt, who describes these stretches as artificial ditches, is expected to argue they are significant enough to meet the board’s criteria of a man-made drain, Boldt wrote.

Petition advocates say the cleanup of debris, fallen trees and obstructive sediment in Haw Creek is necessary to reduce the potential of flooding in Columbus.

In contrast, some opponents claim such a cleanup will strip the creek’s banks of trees and vegetation, which will have adverse effects on water quality, wildlife and the creek’s natural beauty.

Another significant concern expressed last month is the $4.5 million estimate made by Citizens for Haw Creek for clean-up efforts over a three- to five-year period.

Several people who own property along the lower Haw Creek basin expressed their concerns last month that those with nothing to gain may be forced to foot the bill.

However, there is no proposal on the table concerning who will pick up the tab, board members said.

If you go

The Bartholomew-Shelby Joint Drainage Board will continue the public hearing it began on July 20 at 6:30 p.m. today in Columbus North High School’s Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St.

The matter under consideration is a petition requesting the lower end of Haw Creek through the city of Columbus be taken under the jurisdiction of the board as a regulated drain.     

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.