On behalf of Friends of the White River, CLC has challenged the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ decision to authorize the permanent destruction of more than seven acres of mature hardwood forest and other high-quality riparian habitat along Indianapolis’s White River levee.
Our administrative appeal, filed June 26, argues that DNR violated state law in permitting the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and its agent, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to remove all vegetation — including roots larger than one-half inch in diameter — from the portion of the levee that extends from Westfield Boulevard to Kessler Boulevard. We further argue that DNR allowed the project to proceed even though the applicants failed to meet their statutory obligation to prove that clearing would not cause "unreasonable" environmental harm.
We also challenged the factual and legal foundation for the project. Although the City and Corps contend that eliminating levee vegetation could reduce flood damage, agency experts acknowledge that trees can also strengthen levees. In fact, Congress recently passed a law that expressly prohibits the Corps from requiring vegetation removal in the absence of a site-specific levee safety analysis. Our best information indicates that the Corps has thus far failed to perform that analysis with respect to the White River levee.