A southern Bartholomew County couple say they are delighted with the way a new roundabout at U.S. 31 and Southern Crossing controls the flow of traffic next to their home.
But what hasn’t pleased Brandon and Jenifer Moore is the flow of flood water — or rather, lack of it — on their property since the roundabout was completed during the summer.
Before work got underway in June, the Moores — who reside at 7303 East County Road 400S — never saw significant drainage problems in the 1.5-acre section of farm field they converted into a horse pasture a few years ago, the couple said.
Even after the two-month project began, crews from Milestone Construction were “amazing with their communications and providing us access to our property,” Brandon Moore said.
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In exchange for what Brandon Moore said was a reasonable purchase price, the Indiana Department of Transportation obtained right-of-way to dig a new drainage ditch over an existing one at the north side of the pasture, he said.
But since the roundabout opened Aug. 2, the water in the ditch has overflowed into the pasture after almost every rainfall, Jenifer Moore said.
It has become a magnet for mosquitoes and other insects, as well as a possible health hazard for the couple’s pony, Snickers, and elderly quarterhorse Ky, she said.
“I’m not settling for a field that I have my two horses in to become half-swamp,” Jenifer Moore said.
“I could walk in my boots, and my feet would go a foot-and-a-half into the ground,” her husband said.
One day after crews laid loose soil along the ditch last summer, the area was hit by a five-inch downpour of rain that eroded all the sod, Brandon Moore said.
Much of the natural debris built up in the ditch, essentially creating a dam, he said.
The couple has maintained that if the drainage ditch extended all the way south to Little Sand Creek, there wouldn’t be a problem.
While Milestone crews weren’t authorized by INDOT to extend the ditch further, they did come back and make it deeper, but that did little to alleviate the problem, Brandon Moore said.
Since the ditch stops about 200 yards short of the river in an area of vegetation, the continuing build-up of soil, limbs and debris after every storm is making the problem progressively worse, Brandon Moore said.
Making their case
For the past six months, the couple has tried a variety of ways to convince INDOT officials they have a legitimate complaint, including requesting assistance from State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, in October.It now appears the couple may be making some headway.
After Smith discussed the situation with an INDOT deputy commissioner, project supervisor Caleb Trueblood met the Moores and examined the flooded pasture Jan. 19, INDOT spokesman Harry Maginity said.
That same day, crews installed a 12-foot dry well next to the highway that should help keep storm water from the roundabout from backing up into the ditch, Maginity said.
Six days later, workers returned to rebuild a silt fence that had collapsed in August and cleared out debris next to the couple’s home.
In addition, INDOT crews will add a gradually steeper grade along the ditch as it veers toward Little Sand Creek by early February, the INDOT spokesman said.
In the spring, Milestone crews will return to clean out more debris and sow grass seed, which may also help alleviate some flooding, Maginity said.
But the old ditch that was in place before the turnabout was built never did extend out to Little Sand Creek, Maginity said.
“It kind of petered out into the field,” Maginity said. “We’re trying not to go beyond the scope of our construction.”
Maginity suggests that it may be heavier-than-normal rainfalls and ice melts, rather than changes to the ditch itself, that may be causing excessive flooding in the flatland flood plain.
“We’re taking all the measures we can take at this time,” Maginity said. “We’ll see if we have to take other measures in the spring.”
“I’m not settling for a field that I have my two horses in to become half-swamp.”
— Southern Crossing property owner Jenifer Moore