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Heather Olivia

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since Feb 05, 2019
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Rocky Ripple, IN
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Recent posts by Heather Olivia

Thank you all for your perspective, examples and information! This stuff is amazing and I was able to use lots of it to back up what I wanted to communicate to the Board of Public Works. The real life examples are especially inspiring and encouraging to see. I apologize I haven't been keeping up with this thread better. Since I last posted, the Board of Public Works had their hearing and voted. Several of the board members heard and shared our serious concerns and questions. Two of five voted no, so there is a continuance! There will be another vote Wednesday. Apparently, this is an almost unheard of occurrence for something to not just sail through. So we've been researching, strategizing, writing a press release and emailing the board and others basically non-stop. Plus we're currently remodeling our house and trying to prep the garden for spring. So my brain is pretty much melted.

I didn't see this touched on above, but one of the major problems with a plan as proposed is that it will move the water downstream more rapidly, and increase the intensity of flood events downstream from you. This is why planners should be looking at whole watersheds, not simply play whack-a-mole with wherever the most intense problem is.

Here in the UK there are projects looking at whole watersheds that are both incredibly cost effective and environmentally friendly. For example, reforesting upland areas drastically reduces peak water flows during rain events. Frequently this is farmland that is, at best, marginal.

What Nature Does For Britain is an excellent book that looks at this, with other things. It is written from a UK perspective, but many of the lessons are universally applicable.


I wholeheartedly agree and have been repeating this point. There are multiple places down and upstream of us where there are flooding issues and this seems completely irresponsible to exacerbate them. I made the suggestion that a whole watershed approach was needed to truly address these problems at the last hearing. The engineer who's running this dismissed me, saying that was impossible except in very small, rural situations. I don't believe him. I also highly question whether the approach they are suggesting here (clear cut, sheet piling to bedrock and riprap on banks) would lead to landslides which could dam the river or at least, temporarily increase flood risk here by destabilizing the berm. The banks of the berm are very steep in places and currently well secured by trees. This seems like yet another serious problem set aside to "deal with later".
Book ordered! Looking forward to reading it.

Unfortunately, exacerbating the problem with these changing data points for weather (as you rightly point out) is the build up of cities, which causes water to drain more quickly into the watershed, exacerbating flooding. Can we fix that? We can help (permeable pavements, including catchment ponds in neighbourhoods, keeping wildlands, underground water catchment... etc), but it would take a big code change, and many years to retrofit (should we, is not a question asked here, but... I have some strong opinions on that one too).



I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the question of "should we".

A few links that might be interesting for your discussions:

https://www.fema.gov/pdf/about/regions/regionx/Engineering_With_Nature_Web.pdf <- explanations on why riprap is bad, and plants are good, and some design information.

https://www.thespec.com/news-story/9100831-dead-christmas-trees-find-new-purpose-in-hamilton-harbour-wetlands/ <- a small scale project near me

http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/Library/277708.pdf <- a Canadian guide for more natural stabilization.

Good luck! I really respect your determination to look deeper into this and try to find alternatives.  



Thank you! These are gold! I especially like the last one. So many cool techniques!

Thank you again to all! Hopefully I shall have good news on Wednesday and our community can get to work on finding a sustainable solution instead of fighting this crazy plan! Prayers for the water welcome and appreciated!



1 month ago
Hello Indiana permies! My love and I are stewards of a half acre in beautiful Rocky Ripple, which is a tiny river town in Indianapolis. We have been observing the land for about a year and doing some tending, mostly removing honeysuckle, garlic mustard and Japanese knotweed.

We started working on the house in late October, which has been/still is our full time job since as it was quite distressed. Hoping we can move in soon and spend more time playing outside in the garden!

While there is still a plethora of plants who are highly successful and bad at sharing (the honeysuckle and knotweed), there are many amazing plants too. Lots of raspberries, a very large pear tree, elderberries and many more. We’ve “cleared” (dug up as many knotweed rhizomes as possible) the knotweed patch and plan to grow an annual veggie garden there with the hopes it will provide competition for the knotweed and keep us on top of weeding out new shoots.

The eventual plan is to phase out the remaining honeysuckle and replace it with a food forest-ish set up with lots of native plants. Currently, we have tons of songbirds and wildlife and I want to maintain and improve habitat for them. I’m learning about herbalism and want to tie in medicinal plants as well. At some point, we probably want bees and chickens, but that’s likely a few years down the road till we get other things more solidly rooted.

I’ve become rather obsessed with the idea of planting the rain with water harvesting earthworks, as well as harvesting rainwater for use in our home.
Again, much of this is still in planning stages, but I am super excited!

I would love to see what other folks are doing on their land if anyone nearby is open to giving a tour of their place. Good to know there are other folks in Indiana working with and for the earth like this!
1 month ago
Thank you both for the replies!

Tyler, I totally agree that a regional approach would be the way to go. Asking my city and those around it to completely rethink how they manage their watersheds is not something I know how to even begin doing. But I will be looking into it, once the immediate danger of this poorly thought out plan is past. The video of Geoff Lawton's farm in flood is pretty incredible. I haven't heard of Peter Andrews, but will have to check it out. Thanks! I have Brad's first book, need to order the second.
Hearing someone else express that it seems insane is more helpful than you might realize. I was actually contemplating contacting Brad Lancaster or someone similar, so I will be doing that soon.

J Davis, I agree that rivers need room and for humans to develop flood plains isn't a wise move. Of course, then I also moved to one...but I accept the risk and we are making efforts to make our home at least more resilient if it does flood. There are about 300 homes in the town. Elevating them seems like a great idea, which we have repeatedly suggested, but for some reason hasn't been seriously considered. Probably because the company they "consulted" with on this is one that would stand to profit from building a flood wall.. I appreciate your honesty. I think it's important to be realistic.

I should clarify, while I am looking for long term solutions to address this issue within my community, right now my main goal is to find evidence to convince my city government that this is a bad plan so they put the brakes on it. My neighbors and I are attending the first of three public hearings on it tomorrow. With any luck, the board of public works will be reasonable when presented with what we already know about how ridiculous this situation is and the wall will be out of the picture. Once I know the river is safe, then I want to focus on how the town can work to protect residents and homes in a sustainable way. So I'm open to hearing all thoughts, but would most appreciate those that might help stop the insanity at the moment.
1 month ago
Aloha Permies! So grateful to have found this amazing community of people working with and for the earth! And for the wellspring of knowledge and experience y'all are sharing!

I live in a flood plain and currently, my town and city government are trying to get us flood protection. While my neighbors and I do want that safety for our community, we believe that the way they are going about it would be disastrous environmentally, socially and financially. At present, we have an earthen levee which has prevented flooding for about 75 years (WPA era). They want to put in a flood wall, driving sheet piling down 30-40 feet to the bedrock and adding concrete walls on top. They would also strip all the trees and vegetation along the river and cover the bank in rip rap. They propose to bring equipment in via the river, which is hard enough to navigate with a canoe in many places, as it can be quite shallow and rocky. This seem like it would be extremely harmful, if it's even possible. Currently, our stretch of river (about a mile) is a beautiful, rich riparian corridor. This would be devastating to wildlife and would destroy the river we love, along with all its valuable ecosystem services. Due to the nature of the proposed funding mechanism, it would also usher in gentrification and force many residents out of their homes, due to greatly increased property taxes. There is a whole host of other problems with their proposed wall, which I can elaborate on if needed. However, I would like to focus on solutions. Clearly, my neighbors and I do not find the proposed solution to be an acceptable one on many fronts. We have been communicating this to our representatives without much luck. The city is currently working on initiatives to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible and we are hoping that if we can offer better ideas on how they might approach flood protection and watershed management, perhaps we can avoid this wasteful, destructive wall and preserve our river. It's also worth noting their proposed plan costs 65 million which the city doesn't really seem to have.

What I am hoping y'all can help me with is finding solid examples of more sustainable solutions to flood control. I have found many amazing examples of water harvesting earthworks and plantings being used to mitigate stormwater. For example, Village Homes in Davis, California and the work of Brad Lancaster and community in Tucson, Arizona. However, these are very different climates than here in central Indiana and are being used for a different application. Our annual rainfall approaches 40 inches here and the ground is often frozen in winter. These things make me wonder if water harvesting earthworks would be feasible as part of a solution. I know I have read that in many places, they simply give the river more room to spread out. Some places, they have routed the water somewhere less harmful during flood events. For example, a quarry or farm field and then compensated the owners for any loss. I'm wondering if there's some way to combine that strategy with water harvesting earthworks to get us flood protection without destroying the river and the town as it is. Ideally of course, everyone along the river would work together to ensure they aren't contributing to runoff which is causing these problems, but I know that would take a lot of work to make reality.

I know this is an extremely complex and ambitious thing to try to approach, but my heart cannot bear the idea of what they wish to do and I have to try something. There must be some way for people to live in harmony and balance with the river and I want to find it. So please, bring on examples and any thoughts you may have to help. The Wapahani river, myself and my community would be most grateful. Thank you!
1 month ago