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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Fall Creek’s future needs your input

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ROW invites neighbors, businesses, and institutions along Fall Creek to engage in a unique opportunity to learn about and inform decisions for the future of this important waterway. Efforts are underway to help improve water quality and demonstrate innovative, natural approaches to our urban environments. You can play an integral part in stewarding this waterway future.

Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District,with ROW’s Fall Creek committee, are working now to update the Lower Fall Creek Watershed Management Plan, which will:

  • identify important areas of concern and opportunity;
  • prioritize projects and areas that Fall Creek neighborhoods want most; and
  • help secure future funding to make those project ideas a reality.

Some Background

Lower Fall Creek begins in Marion County from Geist Reservoir and winds through areas such as Lawrence, Millersville, Mapleton-Fall Creek, Watson-McCord, Crosstown, Fall Creek Place, and other neighborhoods along the way. This waterway physically connects diverse areas — many of which represent the Black and brown neighborhoods who have born the brunt of stormwater pollution from upstream sources (yard and farm chemicals, industrial pollution) and raw sewage from the combined sewer system. Years of neglect and pollution have resulted in long-term disinvestment in these neighborhoods.

Now, after 20 years of advocacy, the current Citizens Energy Group DigIndy project to mitigate CSO pollution is mid-way. This $2 billion infrastructure project will improve all of Indy’s water quality by addressing some of the long-standing environmental justice challenges for the most negatively impacted areas. The investment is expected to dramatically improve quality of life for everyone in our city, but more work is needed.

Understanding Watersheds and Water Quality?

Everything we do in our Fall Creek watershed (all the land areas that drain to Fall Creek, then to the White River, and ultimately to the world’s oceans) affect the quality of our water. Some of Fall Creek’s main water quality concerns include:

  • E. Coli, a bacteria that comes from human and animal waste (even from pet waste), when it gets into our waterways from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) or from stormwater running across yards, parks or livestock operations.
  • Nutrients enters our waterways in excess when fertilizers run off from lawns and farms.  Phosphorous and nitrogen can cause algae and plant growth that decreases the necessary oxygen and light for aquatic life.
  • Sediment (soil, dirt) washes into our water from construction sites, streambank erosion and other areas. It can prevent adequate oxygen and light necessary for healthy aquatic life to thrive.

All these sources of water pollution equate to higher costs to clean up our drinking water and reduce quality of plant, animal and human life along our waterways.

Planning for Fall Creek’s Future

Currently the science tells us that Fall Creek has both challenges and opportunities. On the positive side, nutrient loads from fertilizers tend to be mostly lower than water quality standards require. At the same time, there are 28 CSOs currently operating in Marion County that lead to waterway quality frequently below standards.

There are already some positive improvements underway. The City of Indianapolis Land Stewardship is removing invasive plants and restoring native landscapes in Barton Park. The Central Avenue-30th Street area and Millersville Nature Preservehas been identified for long-term care and maintenance. Rev. Charles Williams Park, slated for installation of a new playground and other amenities, has also been recommended for water quality improvements by nearby Crosstown neighbors.

Your Input Matters

Fall Creek runs through many Indy neighborhoods and whether your concern is water quality, flooding, beautification or recreation, we need your thoughts now. Take this 5-minute survey to share your thoughts. An easy-to-use mapping tool has also been developed where you can mark a spot and tell us your concern or idea. The link provides access to both the mapping tool and a step-by-step guide.

Have questions or want to get even more involved in the future of Fall Creek? Visit ourwaterways.org/events for upcoming meetings, or contact info@ourwaterways.org.

Stay in the know with ROW at ourwaterways.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ourwaterways.

Julie L Rhodes, collective impact director, Reconnecting to Our Waterways (ROW).

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