Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v13n01)
Everything you always wanted to know about the canal...part eight
posted: Jan. 08, 2016
For those readers just discovering this series on the canal now in its 8th part, I will explain why the canal is important and why the Gazette is doing this series. The dam that created the Central Canal was built on the White River in 1936 and the Town of Broad Ripple grew up around it. It is why we are here today. For years the canal has supplied the City of Indianapolis with 60% of its fresh water which is processed for our clean water supply.
I changed the subject to problems with the canal. "The canal is really river water. But, I hear people say they are worried about a break in the levee allowing the river to spill into the canal, ruining our main supply of water for the city. There's a place where the river and the canal are really close, like at 50th..."
"Highbanks area," answered Ed Malone, Director of Water Production for Citizens. "Michigan Road area. North of Michigan Road, that's where it is. It's basically as you go north from Michigan Road up behind Butler and the Christian Theological Seminary."
"There's like one shared, narrow bank between the canal and the river," I followed.
Ed continued, "That's what we call our highbanks area."
"But if it breaks, it's a problem I'm sure, but isn't that the same water on both sides of the levee (The Canal and The White River)?", I asked.
"The problem is the river," explained Ed. "If you stood [on that bank] you've seen... the river is substantially below the canal there."
"Ahh, so you'd lose the water in the canal to the river."
Ed further explained, "Yes, [river water] won't flow into the canal [polluting it], it will flow out of the canal [into the river, emptying it]."
"And that happened once, right?" I recalled. "Where a tree in the narrow bank fell over and ripped a hole in the levee. When I was a kid, my mom always told me to be careful around the canal because it was deep and fast moving. She said I would be swept away. Then when it went dry about 20 years ago..."
Ed jumped in, " June, Father's Day 1992, it went dry."
The Gazette editor and son standing in the dry canal back in 1992 when a tree fell and broke the levee between the canal and White River, draining the canal.
image courtesy of Elizabeth Hague
"And when we went down there and it was like--this is how deep it is? It's not deep at all."
"No, it's only five feet deep," said Edwin Morris, Operations and Maintenance Supervisor for Citizens.
"A few years ago," I recalled, "there were firemen, I think, and other people getting bikes and things out of the canal. Is that when [Citizens] says there's too much junk in the canal and we need to clean stuff out, or was that done by someone else?"
Ed answered, "That's what Edwin's guys do on a regular basis."
"The patrol," Edwin added.
"I think it was the fire department that went in and got the stuff, in wet suits..."
"A lot of times my guys go in and remove whatever's in there. They pull out some branches and small trees all the time," said Edwin.
"This photo is from 2009," as I showed the picture. "Fire divers in the canal at Rainbow Bridge. They brought out bikes and cash drawers and..."
Divers pulling items from the canal in 2009.
"That was probably for the canal beautification," said Ed.
Edwin added, "The dredging project can also pull a lot of materials and debris out, anything that shouldn't be in the water."
"Did you find any ducks, rubber ducks? Did any make it past the fire department?", I followed up.
"The rubber ducks at the duck race?" asked Edwin. "I don't know how it turned out. Do you know who won?"
"Yeah," I replied, "but I was curious if they got every one of them. The firemen had a net at the end to catch the strays. Did any of the 1300 rubber ducks end up here [at the water company]?"
"They got them all out," said Edwin.
I asked, "Can the fire department can just go in [to the canal] and take stuff?"
"They usually tell us," replied Ed. "They notify us."
Training in the canal in 2011
"They do training in there, too," I added.
Ed answered, "Yes, they do some training in there. They do underwater training. They'll look for guns occasionally after an incident or what not. So if somebody tosses one in there they may look for it."
1992 canal is drained by levee breach
Divers pulling items from the canal in 2009
Training in the canal in 2011