overflow from tree removal

VIDEO AND COVERAGE HERE:
Trees along Edgewater & The Maumee River

Levee Tree Removal in Fort Wayne

It has recently come to the attention of Save Maumee that trees along the Maumee River and St. Mary’s River are indiscriminately being cut down by order of the Board of Public Works and the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Apparently this area of the riverbank lies on a levee and during one of the last big floods in Fort Wayne, the riverbank and the trees fell into the water.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of regulating levees by setting the safety guidelines and according to city planners the US ACE directed the city to “remove the trees and make repairs or lose the acceptable rating of flood protection.”  This has resulted in the removal of hundreds of trees along the riverbanks of the Maumee River- in addition to trees removed from the St. Mary’s and St. Joe Rivers as well.

Maumee River @ Edgewater Blvd.

Tree removal and stump grinding has been a hot discussion topic around town.  Between Ash Trees being removed due to the Emerald Ash Borer invasion (equaling 24% of the tree canopy in Fort Wayne) and the Oak Trees being eaten by the Gypsy Moths; no tree is sacred from removal or damage.  Now trees are being removed due to “potential levee disturbance.”  According to a former employee of the Corps Engineer and Research Development, “There has never been a documented problem with a tree.” (MSNBC- Associated Press 6/9/2009)  “The literature on the presence of vegetation indicates that it may actually strengthen a levee,” said Andrew Levesque, senior engineer for King County Washington. Yet, the mowing down of trees in Fort Wayne, never seems to end and the city does not see a problem with tree removal and does not have any plans to replace trees elsewhere except in mowed city/county park areas.

Maumee River @ Edgewater Blvd.

Hurricanes breaking levees and the affects in Fort Wayne, IN?

Tree removal on levees has been an ongoing problem around the country since Hurricane Katrina blasted through New Orleans, destroying the levees built to protect the city.  Recognizing that part of the issue in New Orleans was the failing levee system, the US ACE has taken a fresh look at all of the levee systems in the U.S., compiling a list of blanket regulations that every city or county lying in a floodplain must follow.   The US ACE tightened its regulations with specific criteria regarding structure safety and vegetation.  But, they tightened their regulations claiming there is an understanding “that levee systems commonly share the same space as water conveyance and critical ecosystems and habitats, and that working with these interests is vital in effectively managing flood risks.”  (Recommendations for a National Levee Safety Program; A Report to Congress from the National Committee on Levee Safety, 2009)

Save Maumee recognizes the importance of levee safety and does not dispute that the city needs to be able to assess and observe the levees and keep our homes safe from floods.  We also recognize that the rivers are filthy; contaminated with E. coli, Mercury, PCB’s, nutrients, phosphorous, sewage, garbage and general pollution- and we do not see the city working to correct or repair any of these issues, aside from a mandate to separate the sewer and storm drains (which should have been started 20 years ago).  In the world of water and vegetation that coexists along rivers, vegetation holds soil in place.  Native plants with long taproots prevent soil from being washed downstream, filter water, attract diverse species of birds and insects, slow down and absorb water as it moves quickly through the banks during times of flooding and high water, while providing shade that increases Dissolved Oxygen in the water for wildlife.  Removal of that vegetation increases soil erosion and is another means to cause failing streambanks to fall into the river.  More than 85% of Indiana’s wetlands have been eliminated since the 1800s, and many forested wetlands have been lumbered for their high-value hardwood. More than five million acres of wetlands used to exist in the state, but just over 800,000 acres remain today.  Our wetlands are nature’s kidneys and filtrate pollution as well.

Maumee River @ Edgewater Blvd.

Yet the city indiscriminately cuts trees out on entire riverbanks without planning to replace them anywhere- while our rivers get dirtier and turn into culverts.

Concerned citizens have contacted Save Maumee regarding the removal of these trees, filling in of flood plains (approving permits and failing to enforce fines), business vehicles leaking directly into storm drains, waste gates being open with water flushing out during times without rain, concern about removal of vegetation without plans to replant elsewhere along the river and the lack of city planning that coincides with increasing the water and ecological quality along the banks, along with other issues.  In fact, we can be bold enough to say that our organization is working to correct more than a century of neglect, degradation, and abuse on the Maumee River in Fort Wayne and have yet to see others take an active approach to stopping pollution.  We see the city cutting down trees, changing the structure of the rivers, and having a continued disregard for the community’s greatest natural assets- which also directly affects those downstream from us.  And we (Save Maumee volunteers) continue to pull tires, plastic, stoves, refrigerators, and more out of the banks while also planting the trees and vegetation that actually do some good.  The questions remain:  1) Who decides where these trees are removed? 2) Who is advising the board and the “experts” that have been consulted? 3) Who is footing the bill for this large scale project?

BEFOREAFTER

BEFORE                                                                AFTER

Army Corps issues tree chopping orders; Policy aimed at protecting levees draws fire from locals 

The above article states that “Army Corps of Engineers are o
n a mission to chop down every tree in the county Columbia LA…but later settled on a few dozen.”

The corps eventually dropped the idea because of state wildlife officials complained that the policy would destroy habitat, and residents in Sacramento and elsewhere objected that it would turned the rivers into more than barren culverts.  The corps eventually dropped the idea.

So why cut down every tree indiscriminately along the levees in Fort Wayne, IN?

All this came about in the Army Corps of Engineers in 2006 due to  Hurricane Katrina smashing the New Orleans levees in Aug. 2005 and now letters from ACE are making their way into local requirements.  The Corps wants a way to protect levees, yet our riverbanks have nothing to do with a hurricane and the City of New Orleans being built below sea level and the levees bursting from the pressure of a violent ocean during a hurricane event. TREES had NOTHING to do with it!

One reason that city continues to have flooding issues may have to do with the land use.  Water is more destructive than fire, if you keep it at bay in one part of a rip/rap levee area…it will find a way to meander somewhere else, that area may never have flooded before.  Removing trees “may contribute to the erosion of the banks.”  It definitely contributes to the fast rising and falling of water levels called flashiness.  City planning remains to be poor, even though building previously on a floodplain was not this administrations mistake.  The city/county continually ignores the importance of the ecological systems along the rivers, which also provides safety to the quality of the waterways, fish, birds, etc. Highlights of Plan-it Allen – Allen County’s Comprehensive Plan

Lawyers have sent a letter of inquiry into the massive tree removal along local riverbanks.  See it here: Request for Information

A Report to Congress from the National Committee on Levee Safety Jan., 2009.

So what are locals saying?

Ryan Bailey, Save Maumee’s Project Director noticed the blank space first.  “The city is cutting down all the trees along the banks of the Maumee River on Edgewater Blvd.   This does not help the bank stabilization process, does it? The trees and grasses are what Save Maumee plants to try to keep diversity and soil stabilization!  This is counter-productive, it is negating all the work Save Maumee has put into our riverbanks and their preservation!”

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