A project focused on mitigating flooding in downtown Portland has received a big financial boost.

The City of Portland was notified Thursday that it has been awarded a $780,450 State Transportation and Stormwater Grant from the State Water Infrastructure Fund toward its proposed Meridian Street sewer project.

Portland Mayor John Boggs was excited about the news Thursday after receiving the award letter from Indiana Finance Authority.

“I guess the disappointments make the highs even better,” he said, referencing other grants that the city has missed out on. (Portland had applied for a grant through the State Water Infrastructure Fund in a recent round for water and wastewater projects, but was not awarded. “I called our engineering firm and said, ‘Let’s go. Push this thing through as fast as we can.’”

The $780,450 grant would cover nearly half of the estimated $1.599 million project. Portland Redevelopment Commission has committed $350,000 toward the project, and Portland Board of Works has already put $150,000 toward engineering and other work that is part of the total cost.

Boggs said there is about $319,000 left to complete funding for the project, but added that the city has more than $1.3 million in coronavirus relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act that can be used to cover that gap if other sources do not pan out.

He said he is hopeful that the construction plan can be substantially complete within the next few weeks to be submitted for approval. Once complete funding is in place, the project can move to the bidding stage, hopefully by the end of 2021 or January 2022, Boggs said.

“My hope would be that when the weather breaks next spring we can start moving some dirt,” the mayor added.

The project is focused on mitigating downtown flooding that occurs when water backs up through sewers from the Salamonie River during heavy rain events. First proposed in March by Wessler engineering, it calls for running a new storm sewer line under Meridian Street. It would be 36 to 48 inches in diameter and run south from between Arch and Race streets to the Salamonie River.

It would serve to drain three of the Meridian Street catch basin systems that currently feed into Millers Branch about a half block to the east. Those systems would be disconnected from the overloaded Millers Branch pipe, and flap gates would be installed on the new line in order to stop water from backing up through catch basins.

The project is designed to eliminate problems during what is referred to as a “10-year flood.”

Flooding, which has been an issue in Portland’s downtown since the city’s founding, jumped to the forefront again in 2011 when melted snow from a winter storm followed by several days of steady rain put Portland underwater. It flooded again in December 2013. And the downtown area was flooded three times in less than a month during summer 2015 when nearly 22 inches of rain fell between June 1 and July 15.