Flood relief for Belhaven residents in hands of two property owners
Two property owners are holding up the city of Jackson’s efforts to stop flooding along Belhaven Creek and ensuring that another flash flood like the one that inundated the area on July 21 will happen again.
In late May, city officials told the Sun they hoped to have all the easements needed for the Belhaven Creek Improvement Project in 60 days.
Sixty days have come and gone, and owners of two properties have yet to grant easements for the work.
Those owners include Nat and Carrie Duncan (1607 St. Mary St.), and Concentric Circle LLC (1600 St. Ann St.). The Duncans live in Leland, according to city documents. Concentric Circle is owned by Bill Cook Jr.
The easements are needed so contractors can legally access private property to make channel improvements.
To date, the city has obtained 14 of the 16 needed.
Ward Seven Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said she had made contact with Nat Duncan but declined to comment on any conversation between the two.
“I am hopeful we can reach some sort of agreement in the near future,” she said.
Lindsay previously said some of the holdouts didn’t “live here and understand the urgency of the project.”
Belhaven residents understand the urgency all too well, a fact that was underscored by heavy rains that ripped through the area on the Sunday, July 21.
That morning, approximately two to three inches of precipitation was dropped on the area, causing flooding along several neighborhood streets. Several homes also took on water during the storm. (A video of the flooding can be found at northsidesun.com)
“It was not a severe storm, just a pretty good rain producer,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Latrice Maxie. “Heavy rain lasted 30 minutes to an hour, followed by moderate rain.”
Lindsay said some property owners also had “legitimate questions that needed to be answered by the engineering team.”
Bill and Gretchen Cook backed up that point, telling the Sun previously that they had concerns about how the work would impact their property.
Williams said the city had met with the couple recently and was hopeful the Cooks would soon grant an easement.
Once easements are obtained, public works will bid the project and take proposals to the one-percent commission for funding consideration.
Engineers estimate the project will cost around $2 million.
Work calls for widening Belhaven Creek from St. Mary to Laurel Street. From St. Mary to Piedmont Street, the creek walls would be lined with concrete to prevent future erosion. From Piedmont to Laurel, rip rap would be added, also to prevent erosion.
Also, a new box culvert will be added at St. Mary, which would help improve drainage during peak times.
Box culverts are designed to be placed under a bridge or a road to allow water to drain under those structures unimpeded. The current box culvert is too small to handle current runoff levels from heavy storms.
Plans were drawn up by North Jackson-based Southern Consultants. The firm was brought on in 2016, for approximately $225,000. Designs were funded by the city’s one-percent infrastructure sales tax.
Belhaven Creek serves the Belhaven drainage basin, which runs from Glenway Drive and Lakeland Drive in the north to Pinehurst Street in the south. East to west, the basin stretches from Museum Boulevard to Veterans Memorial Stadium and Millsaps College.
Flooding in the area has gotten worse in recent years, thanks in part to the increased frequency of heavy storms, as well as increased development upstream.
Adding to that problem is development in the basin itself. According to the National Weather Service, more than 99 percent of the basin is developed, with 41.58 percent of it being covered with impervious materials, such as concrete.
Impervious materials do not soak up rainwater like natural ground, increasing runoff into the creek.
Click here to see a video of the flooding: https://www.northsidesun.com/media/7551