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Group seeks Haw Creek jurisdiction change

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A group of landowners in the Haw Creek watershed want the creek to be placed under jurisdiction of the Bartholomew County Drainage Board as a regulated drain.

The change would mean the drainage board could limit development and regulate bridges and dams in populated areas. A group called Citizens for Haw Creek said the 2008 Columbus flood, which caused nearly $500 million in damages, added to the sediment, trees and debris that are in the creek.

All of the additional materials in the creek restrict water flow from the north to the south and cause it to swell and flood when water enters the stream, the group contends.

The citizen groups also said bridges over the creek are undersized and inadequate.

The section of Haw Creek being considered is slightly more than six miles. It starts near East County Road 400N and runs southwest until it meets East Fork White River.

“No matter what you do, it’s going to decrease the amount of flooding,” said John Boldt with the Citizens of Haw Creek. “This portion has never been under anyone’s jurisdiction. It’s just a creek run through the community and this is where all the problems are.”

Before the creek can be put under the jurisdiction of the county drainage board, the group expects it will have to raise $10,000 to pay for postage of mailed notifications of a public hearing, Boldt said. Citizens for Haw Creek is looking for ways to raise that amount of money. Boldt said some of the money would be used to pay a designer who also created the Citizens for Haw Creek website.

The petition has 12 signatures of residents so far. The number of residents that will need to be notified has not been determined yet, Boldt said.

At Monday’s county drainage board meeting, members discussed scheduling a hearing date between November and February to give the Citizens for Haw Creek enough time to notify residents impacted by the creek and in the Haw Creek watershed. Some of those residents are in the southern part of Shelby County.

Board members Carl Lienhoop and Ron Speakers both said adding Haw Creek to the county’s jurisdiction needs to be done. But if that does happen, they said any remediation wouldn’t happen until other creek projects are completed.

Tom Finke, of the county hydrology department, said the board can consider assuming jurisdiction of the creek if owners of more than 50 percent of acreage in the creek watershed would benefit from the change, and if the benefit to residents is larger in cost than the damage of making the change.

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