FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The public is getting a deeper look into Fort Wayne’s biggest public works project ever. Fort Wayne City Utilities held its first public forum for its massive Deep Rock Tunnel Thursday.
City officials are trying to reduce the amount of sewage water overflow into local rivers by 900 million gallons a year. That’s enough water to fill about 1,300 Olympic-size swimming pools and about three and one-fourth Empire State Buildings. The projected is expected to be complete by 2025.
“It is the largest project in the history of public works in the City of Fort Wayne,” said Frank Suarez, City of Fort Wayne public information officer.
The 18-year Consent Decree and Long Term Control Plan are the official terminology for the sewer system project. It’s next step is the Deep Rock Tunnel. Currently, the city’s sewage system is unable to handle great amounts of rain storm water. When storm water overwhelms the city’s sewer systems, the combined flow of storm water and sewage water causes overflows into local rivers. Since an agreement in 2007 between the City of Fort Wayne, the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Justice, the goal has been to reduce the amount of combined sewer overflows into Fort Wayne’s rivers from about 71 to four.
By 2025, the 5-mile long Deep Rock Tunnel along the Maumee River will take at least 90% of the unclean overflow to a big water pollution control plant.
City officials say the project will improve river quality, reduce basement back ups and street flooding, and boost the local economy.
Dan Wire, the director of the Tri-State Watershed Alliance, has been involved with Fort Wayne’s rivers since the 1980’s. He said the recreational opportunities that will result from cleaner rivers will bring a lot of money to the city.
“There is a concern on the part of residents of the rivers safe to be around and this project has the opportunity to capture the public’s attention, so they can begin to see that yes in fact the rivers are safe to recreate on and around,” he said.
City officials are saying this Deep Rock Tunnel – 150 to 250 feet below the surface with a 16-foot inside diameter – will have a grand impact on the Summit City. The designs for it are about 35 percent complete. Construction will begin in 2017.
“The fact is it’s going to serve generations to come,” Suarez said. “It’s going to be hundreds of years out that this will be important to the city.”
Thursday’s public forum was held at Unitarian Universalist Church on Old Mill Road. There were hands-on displays, a presentation, and a Q-and-A session with the experts. Two more forums will be held in March 2016, as well as many others over the next several years.