River view
(Image credit: City of Elkhart video)

Two rivers run through Elkhart, Indiana, and in 2018, heavy storms caused record-breaking floods.

“The damage was extensive. We had FEMA come in, of course,” says Jamison Czarnecki, director of the Elkhart Environmental Center. “I think that was kind of the wake-up call for a lot of the people in the city and the administration itself, saying we need to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

Czarnecki says to hold more water during heavy rain, the city has been updating its combined sewer and stormwater system. And it has continued an effort that began in the ’90s: buying out property owners who live in the floodplain.

“We have a trail called the River Greenway,” Czarnecki says. “And it’s a 120-acre greenway system that we purchased a lot of the homes from, and then removed those homes, and then turned it back into a riparian zone to prevent some of that flooding.”

He says residents can also help by keeping stormwater grates clear and planting trees and rain gardens that absorb rain.

“We do a variety of programming throughout the year with rain barrels, discussing how people can make their lawns more habitat-friendly, more preventative for flooding,” he says.

So as Elkhart experiences more heavy rain, residents can stay safe and dry.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.