Decatur flood mitigation celebrates milestone, preparing city for climate change

Decatur flood buyout
Decatur flood buyout(wpta)
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 5:35 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - A project that’s been in the works for 25 years took another step forward Thursday. The people who run the flood buyout plan in Decatur purchased their 100th property.

Decatur Mayor Dan Rickord says the project has continued under 4 different mayors and each had one thing in common, they wanted to follow the data.

“We just keep following that data and trying to get houses out of the flood way. Basically, we’re trying to make our city a lot more safer for our residents,” Rickord says.

Data from Climate Central show that Indiana has seen one of the biggest increases in yearly rainfall since 1950, with a changing atmosphere, climate scientists say flooding will only get worse.

“That’s our biggest concern we’ve done a lot of mediation and because of this open green space we do have more permeable surface that we’re creating but are we creating enough space to help pace this change in climate.”

Rodney Renkenberger and staff from the Maumee River Basin Commission have worked with Decatur on buying properties for flood mitigation. Turning roads and houses into much needed green space, and using fewer resources rescuing people, safely ‘letting’ the land flood.

“That’s what it was naturally intended to begin with,” Renkenberger said. “Unfortunately, we as humans sort of encroached on that when homes were built.”

Rickord explained further, saying “It’s not just the safety of the residents who live there, but the safety of all the residents who used to come together to sandbag and all the work that went into it. People were waist deep, chest deep in the water, fighting for people’s houses and it just wasn’t real safe.”

RELATED: Read more about Climate Change in NE Indiana

Flood mitigation also helps people in Fort Wayne because the water flows from the St. Marys to the Maumee River.

With the green space, heavy rainfall can slowly soak into the ground over time, meaning less flooding in Allen County.

Rickord says residents will also be safer in the future because of the flood mitigation.

“All you need to do is watch the news everyday and there’s floods and fire and everything right now so, we’re planning for the future right now as we do this project,” Rickord said.