Monday, June 25, 2007

Just Do the Damn Study

Dan Stockman had a great piece in yesterday's JG that, yet again, illustrates the city's contempt for oversight. The Maumee River Basin Commission wants the city to perform some additional computer modeling to ensure that the levees that are built next to the St Mary's river won't cause flooding in other parts of the city.

The city has performed a steady-flow analysis but the commission would like them to go a step further by performing an unsteady-flow analysis. And since this is above and beyond what is actually required the commission is willing to foot the bill. Seems like a no-brainer right? Might as well be extra careful and ensure that the flooding won't just be pushed onto other areas right? Well, evidently not:
“First we would have to believe the modeling we’ve done is inadequate,” Greg Meszaros, director of public works, told The Journal Gazette. “And we don’t.”

But it's not as thorough as using both flow models and since someone is willing to pay for it then why not just do it? The next quote gives us some insight into their rational as it shows a certain contempt for computer modeling altogether:
“Remember that models are just guesses based on thousands of assumptions,” Meszaros said. “We’ve used good engineering and scientific judgment. I haven’t seen any evidence that anything we’ve done has been inadequate.”

As someone who makes a living doing computer modeling I find that statement laughable. Most models are what we call physics-based and are not "guesses" as Meszaros states. Granted they are only as good as the inputs, but the beauty of computer modeling is that you can run an entire set of inputs to generate best and worst case scenarios.

The commission isn't claiming the work has been inadequate. They simply would like to go the extra mile to ensure everything will work as claimed. If the city is truly confident in the work to date then they should just do the damn study...


Charlotte A. Weybright said...

Let me tell you, I am extremely grateful to Dan Stockman for writing this article. I posted an article a long time ago about just this topic on my blog titled, "Thieme Drive: The Tragedy of the City's Flood Protection Plans."

I live at the junction of Thieme Drive, Nelson Street, and West Berry. I flood, and it isn't fun. But, I do not want a concrete wall across the street from me.

My area is one of the areas where the City has determined (with the help of the USACE) that a concrete flood wall should be constructed.

I began fighting against the wall as soon as the Section 205 Study was released in February of 2005. The Study identified four areas that were in need of protection (according to the City and the USACE): the Woodhurst area, the Park Thompson area, the Tillman area, and the Berry-Thieme area.

I immediately began contacting the City to raise my opposition to the concrete wall at Berry and Thieme as well as my concerns about the impact on the distribution of the St. Marys' waters by continuing to build walls and levees.

I was surprised that such a narrow tack would be used to resolve the flooding issues in the St. Marys River basin. Rather than look at the issues from the entire basin perspective, the City chose to focus on protecting identified areas in Fort Wayne. Certainly looks good in the short run, but doesn't really address the flooding on a broader scale.

I know from following Rodney Renkenberger's (MRBC) comments and talks that he is also concerned that the levees, walls, and berms will have an adverse impact on other areas of the City and region.

As to Mr. Meszaros' comments about the City's modeling being inadequate, well, it is. I know from first-hand experience that the figures used to establish the flood plain in the Berry-Thieme area are not accurate. DLZ prepared a slide show presented on two different occasions to our West Central Neighborhood Association. According to his presentation, the 2003 flood waters would have reached almost up to the junction of Wayne and Nelson.

I have pictures from the 2003 flood, which I showed to the City, to show that I was never prevented by the flood from leaving and entering my home from my back entrance. That entrance was about 50 feet from the junction of Thieme-Nelson-Berry. Inaccurate? You bet those figures are inaccurate, and when I tried to get a straight answer as to where they came up with the figures, I couldn't get one. I still don't know.

I will say this: that by using inaccurate figures a false persepctive is given which makes it much easier to get the residents to agree to the City's solutions, even if the solutions are faulty.

And here is the real kicker - the only thing that actually sees a small amount of flood water is the basements of about three homes (mine included). Three garages are impacted, but because of the steep downhill gradient south to north on Nelson Street and east to west on Berry Street, the water is contained in a very small area. NO STRUCTURAL DAMAE OCCURS TO THE HOMES.

So the City wants to destroy Thieme Drive, build a wall that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars - for what? To protect three garages and sporadic flooding of three or four basements.

Jeff Pruitt said...

Thanks for the info Charlotte. It doesn't surprise me that the city didn't take your response seriously - they are becoming quite imfamous for that.

It's too late to engage this administration but the best thing we can do is to let the next administration know that we're going to make their life hell unless they start taking the citizens seriously...

two crows said...

huh! this sounds eerily familiar.
after the 1977 flood in Kansas City, Missouri, the US corps of engineers cycled through.
they did an awesome job of flood-proofing the rich area of town town that had been hit in '77-- and pushed the flood-prone area further east--to a poorer section.
I lived there--the flood had already hit our area once-- the Corps just raised our risk even higher while assuring us we were better protected than before. uh huh--
they had enlarged the creek-bed upstream from us and left a bottleneck downstream. and we were supposed to take their word for it that we were better off?

it all became a moot point when the guy who owned the major shopping center that _had_ been protected used emminent domain measures to buy up the area where I lived-- citing flood-prone conditions as his reasoning --for pennies on the dollar.

keep their feet to the fire!!!!! and good luck.