Franklin flooding: Reasons and Solutions.

Note: Please also see the accompanying pages on reforms in land use and drainage, which are essential not only to curb flooding in Franklin, but also in other areas of Johnson County, particularly downstream. We don't want to merely divert floodwater towards Edinburgh, Columbus, and beyond!

I. Flows from the north & northeast; Roaring Run ditch; Solutions.

Image 1. Roaring Run, left, and Hurricane Creek, right, flowing into Youngs Creek, below. (It's not clear as to when or from whom Roaring Run took that name.)

Image 2. Original course of Roaring Run downtown. Lots 40 & 57 are the site of the present-day Oren Wright Building, which sits directly on top of the former stream course. That area, up to Madison, was for many years known as "The Swamp."

Image 3. Stream flows through Franklin. Canary Creek, left, Roaring Run, center, and Hurricane Creek, right, flow south and a little west into Youngs Creek, which flows from west to east below the downtown area.

Image 4. Roaring Run, shown in red on this map from the 1880's, was re-routed as the "Main Drainage Ditch & Sewer" sometime after 1853, when the FF&M Rail Road was built through Franklin.

Image 5. UPDATE May 2009: In the 1970's, the original Roaring Run route was severed at the SE corner of the old Arvin plant. It was then "tiled" via a buried pipe directly to Hurricane Creek (indicated by the two yellow arrows I've added on the right). Only the flows below that point continue along the old route to Youngs Creek. This is not generally known, and that point is behind "no trespassing" signs, so it took some sleuthing to discover this, after the original version of this report was posted in 9/08.

Image 6: The entrance to the diversion next to the Arvin building. The road is the old FF&M route. Note the "temporary" police station in background.

Image 7: Original route of Roaring Run, looking southwest from the Arvin diversion. So this is the actual starting point for flows towards downtown.

Image 8: The exit of the diversion pipe near Hurricane Creek.

Image 9: The "Arvin diversion" at left, where it enters Hurricane Creek near the end of Ross Court.

Image 10: For some reason, Franklin in 2004 started a plan to replace the Roaring Run pipe, from where it intersects with Main, with a much larger pipe which would run down city streets at a cost of about $1 million. Which officials expected the feds to fund as part of the N. Main rehab project. Which is not an allowable use of federal funds. The solution to the occasional downtown-area Roaring Run backups is to divert the LHH storm sewer, which drains a large area around Circle Drive, disconnect it from Roaring Run, while severing the latter east of the railroad tracks (red blocks in above image), and divert it all through a new system mostly along Kentucky Street (green arrows above), which would finally provide proper storm drainage to that neighborhood. Grant money is available for this project, as the city council was informed long ago.

UPDATE 8/18/09: Despite giving tours and tons of info to INDOT and FHWA officials, the "big pipe down Main Street" boondoggle is still on track! One finds common sense to be very scarce in bureaucracy. Therefore,
(10 minutes, Windows Media, 70 MB, best viewed via a fast connection.)
(My 1st computer video, pardon the rough production.)
(Apple Quicktime MOV, 54 MB, Windows users must have Quicktime installed.)

Image 11: The green line shows the route followed in the video. Start is the green circle at bottom left, on W. Madison, end is the green circle at upper center, on Cincinnati. Map used is the city's 1931 sewer map. It's a bit hard to read even from the original; some of the lines show storm sewers, some show sanitary sewers. Many overlap. I've drawn in some key storm lines in blue. This was the only map for the older part of the city until a recent survey by Williams Creek Consulting called the "Youngs Creek Drainage Basin Analysis Report" (it's not nearly as encompassing as the name suggests). That document is flawed, as it was done within pre-conclusions and parameters given to them by city hall, but you can find it at:

UPDATE 8/20/09: Here is a letter in reply to INDOT COMMISSIONER REED; Here is the same document WITH REED'S LETTER ATTACHED.

UPDATE 11/19/09: The saga continues. Here is a summary of DESIGN FLAWS/LEGAL ISSUES WITH MAIN STREET PROJECT DRAINAGE (the "big pipe" boondoggle).

UPDATE Dec. 26, 2009:

Image 12. The solution to flooding from the north is to re-route flood drainage dramatically, perhaps in stages using the natural courses. A much greater net amount, winding up on the east side, would then be diverted south and downstream of Franklin.

1. Upstream sources/floodwaters of Canary Creek diverted east.
2. Smaller/regulated flows continue to Youngs Creek.
3. Upstream sources/floodwaters of Roaring Run diverted east. Drainage of the core area of Franklin (perhaps at the rail road) should be severed from the upstream sections.
4. Smaller/regulated flows continue to Youngs Creek.
5. Upstream sources/floodwaters of Hurricane Creek diverted east.
6. Smaller/regulated flows continue to Youngs Creek.
7. Floodwaters are then diverted south (somewhere on the east side) to Youngs Creek downstream of Franklin.

II. Topography of drainage in the Franklin area.

Image 1. Radar elevation image of Franklin vicinity. Dark red is highest, then yellow, blue, green, white. "X" marks downtown Franklin, since the original map is obviously in error. Note Youngs Creek on the left, flowing to the south, before it makes a sharp turn to the east. Note the channel from that point, going southwest. Then, note the split in the channel at the height. One channel goes southeast, curves, and meets Youngs Creek at a northeastly angle. The other channel heads south, curves east, and also intersects Youngs Creek at a lower elevation.

Image 2. Detail from the previous image, showing central and downtown Franklin. "X" approximately marks the Square. Note Roaring Run and Hurricane Creek, on either side, coming from the northeast. The former may be an old course or meander of the latter, as they join upstream. Similarly, note the old course or meander south of downtown, exiting the Youngs Creek course on the left, and merging with it again directly below the "X".

Image 3. A crude overlay (apologies) of Franklin's man-made features, over the previous image. Note the southern water course, where the badly-flooded neighborhood below South Street is located. Part of it, to the left of South Main, was a sand and gravel quarry in the 1800's. Supposedly, it was later used as a city dump.

Image 4. Preliminary map of June flood extent by the Polis Center at IUPUI. They are in the process of studying the flood and producing a report which will include suggestions for mitigation.

Image 5, 6: Detail of 2007 FEMA flood zone map, with key. "X" marks the location of the Oren Wright Building.

III. Youngs Creek flood control solutions.



Are these solutions feasible? Of course! With public will and political leadership, we can not only achieve a nearly flood-free Franklin, but also protect and improve our environment, while curbing flows to communities southwards as well. The bottom line is: Systems conceived, and problems ignored, in the 19th Century, have to be fixed and dealt with in the 21st Century.

Unfortunately, we are not seeing the leadership Franklin and Johnson County need, and we have heard mixed and disturbing messages.

Downtown Franklin is and always has been the center of government and commerce, although the latter has declined in recent decades. But the people have spoken: We want sensible, efficient, thrifty government, and we want a vibrant town center. Some local politicians seem to be unclear on the basic concepts, however.