Overload: Upstream development eroding properties to the south

By ANTHONY WARREN,

When Ken Adcock built his Carolwood Drive home two decades ago, White Oak Creek was a meandering stream, lined with trees and a sloping creek.

Today, because of development upstream, the creek’s formerly slow waters have increased such that they are  eating away at the shoreline, damaging backyards and flooding homes.

Adcock and neighbors say the problem stems from development upstream.

He particularly blames development in west Ridgeland. “All of the properties on the west side of Highland Colony Parkway drain into the creek. They’ve overloaded the creek,” he said. “There was little or no consideration on what that would do to downstream property owners.”

White Oak Creek stretches from Bridgewater Boulevard in Ridgeland to Hanging Moss Creek in Jackson. Along that journey, it cuts through both business and residential areas, including neighborhoods along Briarfield Road, River Thames Road and Carolwood Drive.

Its drainage basin includes the Bridgewater and Dinsmor subdivisions, The Junction shopping center at I-55 North and County Line Road and a developed stretch of property along I-55 North that is home to numerous hotels and car dealerships.

As development has increased upstream, so too has the amount of water flowing downstream. That increased flow has eroded the shoreline and felled numerous trees.

Residents along Carolwood and River Thames have reported the water eroding away portions of their backyards.

To stave off some of the effects of erosion, Adcock built a makeshift retaining wall behind his fence using rebar and Quickrete.

“The erosion was causing caves to form underneath my fence. I had to do something,” he said. 

Farther north, those same waters have caused what appears to be a minor landslide next to an access road behind Select Specialty Hospital. On a recent visit, the area was roped off with yellow caution tape. 

During heavy storms, like the one that occurred in late October, the creek overflowed its banks, flooding yards.

“Any time you have two days of rain, it’s like white water rapids,” Adcock said. “It should be called White Oak River.”

Development in the drainage basin has skyrocketed as the population has moved north.

Since 1990, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), has granted 25 construction permits for the White Oak drainage basin.

MDEQ regulates the development of construction in drainage basins through the state’s stormwater permitting program, according to agency spokesman Robbie Wilbur.

The permitting process is designed to lessen the impact of these developments on “receiving waters,” he said.

Of those, eight were stormwater runoff permits for the Bridgewater neighborhood. It was not known how developers were to mitigate stormwaters under terms of the permits.

Wilbur said all permits require developers to implement “best management practices” to “minimize off-site impacts to receiving waters.”

Construction on Bridgewater began in the 1990s. Today, the subdivision has more than 500 luxury homes, according to previous Sun reports.

White Oak also runs to the west and the south of Dinsmor, a community of 485 homes in 10 subdivisions, according to its website.

Like Bridgewater, construction in that neighborhood also began in the 1990s.

In Jackson, the creek was re-routed in the 1990s to make way for the Junction, a 43-acre shopping center at the corner of I-55 and East County Line.

White Oak ran through what is now the parking lot of the Target department store, Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote said.

All three of the developments were started prior to the passage of stormwater ordinances in Jackson and Ridgeland.

Additional plats have been approved for the Bridgewater neighborhood following the passage of Ridgeland’s ordinance in 2009. All plats approved since the ordinance’s passage have been in compliance with it, according to Ridgeland officials.

Jackson passed its stormwater ordinance in 2000.

Development causes stormwater runoff to increase, largely because it means replacing natural surfaces, such as fields, with impervious surfaces, such as parking lots and rooftops.

Normally, much of the stormwater would soak into the ground, reducing the amount that enters creeks, streams and drainage ditches.

However, with fewer natural surfaces, that water enters nearby creeks.

As of 2011, 51.6 percent of the White Oak Drainage basin had been developed, with 14.44 percent of that land having impervious surfaces, according to data from the United States Geological Survey.

That development has meant higher and faster waters downstream, increased erosion and more instances of flooding.

In April and May, the creek rose to nearly 14 feet, about nine feet higher than its normal levels. And in October and November, the creek rose to 10 feet and 12 feet.

Earlier data on creek flow was not available, according to Michael Runner, a supervisory hydrologist with USGS.

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