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River Protection Project Yields Added Safeguards for Neighborhood Residents

For release: February 8, 2024

City of Fort Wayne Utilities

Fort Wayne, Ind. – Mayor Tom Henry today joined residents from the Woodhurst neighborhood and officials from City Utilities to kick off construction of the final neighborhood pipe project that will connect to the Three Rivers Protection and Overflow Reduction Tunnel (3RPORT), deep rock tunnel.

Part of the 18-year Long-Term Control Plan and federally mandated Consent Decree, this project significantly reduces the amount of combined sewage going into the St. Marys River while simultaneously offering residents relief from longstanding flooding concerns.

The ceremonial groundbreaking took place at the intersection of Old Mill Road and Fairfax Avenue, a site with symbolic importance due to its history of flooding during major weather events. To defend the neighborhood over the years, City Utilities has often placed a portable pump at the intersection and other locations in the area to handle the rising waters. (see attached photos) 

“The needed improvements that are being led by City Utilities demonstrate a strong commitment to meeting the needs of the community for today and for future generations,” said Mayor Henry. “I’m encouraged by the progress we’re making that will ultimately result in cleaner rivers, help us be better stewards of the environment, and enhance the quality of life for residents, neighborhoods, visitors and businesses.”

The scope of the work will increase capacity by installing a 48-inch sewer pipe connecting to the tunnel, 1,700 feet of 60-inch stormwater pipe where none previously existed, and a new permanent stormwater pump station that will automatically engage and send stormwater into the river when needed. These efforts reduce the combined sewage going into the St. Marys River at an outfall near the Old Mill/Fairfax intersection by 17 million gallons a year.

“These neighborhood improvements are another example of how we’re amplifying the value of the federal Consent Decree,” said Deputy Director of Engineering, Matthew Wirtz. “While our mission, as part of the mandated provisions, is to reduce combined sewer overflows just west of this intersection, we have enhanced it by including additional stormwater pipe, more inlets to collect more rainwater and a new pump station that will help keep neighborhood streets and properties from flooding during large rain events or river flood events. Because of our careful planning, our waterways win, and our residents get real benefits, too.”

Besides the Woodhurst pipes, drain installation and pump station, work is also underway in the Southwood Park and Indian Village neighborhoods and throughout Foster Park. At a combined investment of nearly $40 million, these consolidation sewer pipes will connect to the drop shaft in the park, where combined sewage will descend into the tunnel and be transported through the five-mile-long tunnel to the Water Pollution Control Plant. At the plant the combined sewage will be treated, keeping it out of the St. Marys River.

Currently, the combined sewer outfalls in the area dump an average of more than 400 million gallons of combined sewage into the river each year, taking flow from a large area, including neighborhoods between Anthony Boulevard and Engle Road.

The projects announced today are only a small part of City Utilities’ work over the past 16 years. The Consent Decree and Long-Term Control Plan initiatives have included system upgrades, capacity increases at the plant and throughout the system, many sewer separation projects, along with the tunnel and its connecting pipes in neighborhoods throughout the area. To date, investments of more than $500 million in work has been implemented in over 200 neighborhoods, protecting 33,600 households.

Improvements to protect the St. Joseph River were completed in 2016. Similar projects occurred along the St. Marys and Maumee rivers. The latest focus has been on the Deep Rock Tunnel and its neighborhood connection pipes.

Flemming Excavating is the contractor for the Woodhurst pipes and drainage improvements, while Thieneman will construct the pump station.

The total project work will run through early 2025.