May 1, 2009
As a resident of downtown Columbus who wants to see it thrive and as a research scientist with a PhD in civil and environmental engineering with 15 years experience in hydrology, I''d like to express my concern over the sportsplex site selection process, and make sure that some of the ramifications are considered.
The two downtown sites are in areas that, whether "official" wetlands or not, are clearly lowlands that provide many of the environmental benefits of riparian flood plains. Changing these sites for sportsplex construction could have long- term impacts on the Columbus area by increasing both the amount and energy of flooding.
The Corps'' site is in a floodway, which means that raising it out of the path of floods will increase the river height elsewhere. Both the Corps'' site and Burns Bottom have wetlands. In addition to bringing in dirt to raise the sites above flood level, trees would be removed and the soil will be compacted and paved. In a flood, trees slow the water down, reducing its energy. Wetlands and other uncompacted soils allow water to infiltrate, reducing the flood amount. Doing all three things -- bringing in soil to the flood plain, removing trees and replacing them with soft grasses that offer little resistance to flood waters, and reducing the soils ability to infiltrate water -- will exacerbate this area''s vulnerability to floods.
While these sites may be a bargain in short term economics, they simply are not worth the frustration of having the community''s sports events in an area that floods frequently or the environmental consequences of the actions. We are learning to co-exist with the river and take advantage of all of its benefits, while understanding and accounting for the flooding that is part of nature. This would be a step back to the days when water was not properly considered in development, and we are still paying for that in drainage problems.
It is hard to imagine a benefit to putting the sportsplex here that outweighs the potential for harm when there is a viable site only a couple of miles away. Please don''t let upfront cost blind us to the long-term costs.
Jami Nettles, Columbus