- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PORTLAND, Ind. (AP) - The floodwaters have receded and a state of emergency has been lifted, but the eastern Indiana city of Portland is still left with the drainage issues that have left parts of the community under water for the third time this summer.

As much as 5 inches of rain fell overnight Monday on Jay County, leaving Portland’s low-lying downtown under water again. Most downtown businesses and roadways were closed Tuesday and under several inches of water, and the county courthouse, Health Department and City Hall were all closed. Gov. Mike Pence flew over the area in a helicopter Tuesday to view the flooding.

U.S. 27 within the city reopened early Wednesday after having been closed for more than 30 hours. A few streets on the city’s west side remained under water Wednesday morning as the state of emergency declared by Mayor Randy Geesaman was lifted, Jay County Emergency Management Director Ralph Frazee said.

He said his agency will begin assessing damage from the storm Thursday or Friday.

U.S. 27 and the surrounding downtown area also were under water June 17 and June 27.

Geesaman said fixing drainage issues that led to the flooding has become the community’s top priority. The mayor said he will meet with county commissioners, the City Council and The Portland Foundation to devise a plan.

“We always talk about jobs and economic development,” Geesaman said. “The flooding is now a top priority, and we’re calling it flood control.”

When rain falls east of town, the water makes its way into an artificial farm drainage system, Frazee and Jay County Engineer Dan Watson said. It then drains into the Salamonie River, raising the level of the river as it flows through Portland, about 45 miles south of Fort Wayne.

“Do we divert it to the west, before it gets to the city?” Geesaman said, naming one solution. “Or do we divert it to the east? There were some other avenues, too. The least cost was $2 million and the high end was $7 million.”

Some flood control measures already are in place, Watson said.

“We have retention ponds, and do all kinds of things to slow down the water, but we’ve just had too much water,” Watson said. “The biggest problem we’ve had this year is the intensity of the rain. It’s been so frequent. Everything is so saturated. We haven’t had a chance to dry out.”

More than 14 inches of rain fell in some areas of Jay County in June, the National Weather Service has said, and heavy rains have continued this month.

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