City lacks funding to address flooding issues

By ANTHONY WARREN,

The city of Jackson has a couple of options for curbing flooding along Belhaven Creek.

Plans for improving the drainage ditch have been drawn, with engineers suggesting several creek bed improvements, and/or adding a retention pond.

But nearly a year after flash flooding along the drainage ditch inundated several nearby streets, the city is no closer to putting a plan in place.

Part of the problem is money, according to Engineering Manager Charles Williams.

Depending on the design implemented, work will cost between $2 million and $10 million.

However, the cash-strapped city doesn’t have the money, nor does the one-percent oversight commission.

Through late April, the tax had generated about $55.8 million, of which around $54.2 had been obligated.

Williams provided an update on the city’s various drainage control projects at a recent commission meeting.

The commission approved funding to design several flood control projects as part of its first-year master plan.

Among plans, the city has drawn up designs for Belhaven Creek and Eubanks Creek, both of which are on the Northside.

“We have designs we can utilize. The question is whether we can get cooperation from the property owners,” Williams said.

Southern Consultants was brought on to draw up plans in 2016.

Plans were submitted to the city for consideration last year.

The initial proposal included replacing box culverts under Piedmont and St. Mary streets, rechanneling the creek there, building concrete walls along the creek banks between Piedmont and St. Ann Street and adding rip rap from Laurel Street to Piedmont.

Rip rap are large gray stones often put along creek banks to reduce erosion.

The city will need about 30 temporary easements from homeowners for that project to work, Williams said.

Consultants told the Sun previously that those improvements would reduce flooding from a 25-year-storm by four feet at St. Mary, between two and three feet at St. Ann, more than a foot at Lyncrest Drive, and half a foot at Linden Place.

A 25-year storm has a four-percent chance of occurring once a year during a 25-year period, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Williams said the city is also looking at adding a retention pond to add additional protections, and has eyed the wooded property bordered by Peachtree, Woodrow Wilson and North State Street.

That acreage is owned by Jackson Public Schools, meaning the district would have to sign off on any plans before the pond could be built.

Williams told the commission adding the pond could protect the Belhaven community from even larger storms by delaying runoff entering the creek.

However, adding the pond could raise the overall price of the project.

He said the city has approached the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) to help pay for the construction.

Some people living downstream blame construction at UMMC for contributing to the runoff.

However, no decision had been decided at press time.

UMMC spokesman Marc Rolph said the plans were still in the conceptual phase and no further details were available.

 

Last July, several Belhaven streets were flooded after a five-year storm ripped across the area, dumping between 2.5 inches and five inches of rain in the Belhaven drainage basin in less than half an hour.

During the storm, the creek rose from 3.16 feet to more than 13 feet at Riverside Drive and from 2.8 feet to 10.37 feet at Laurel Street.

Several neighborhood streets, yards and cars just south of Riverside were flooded as a result.

Belhaven Creek flooded, in part, because it was unable to handle drainage from impervious areas upstream.

The basin runs basically 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 Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium and Millsaps College.

It takes in the UMMC, the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center, Belhaven University, Millsaps College and other developments.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 99 percent of the area is developed, while 41.5 percent has impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, building and roofs.

Impervious areas do not absorb water, like green spaces, increasing runoff going downstream.    

 

Williams also discussed the Eubanks Creek drainage project. The $1.5 million project will include improving the channel from North State Street to Eagle Avenue.

Jackson is now seeking approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with the work. Because the project would affect a major U.S. waterway, federal law requires the corps to sign off on the project.

Once approval is obtained, the city will need approximately 25 temporary easements.

 

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Robert H. Watson will receive Mississippi College’s Award of Excellence at the university’s 2018 homecoming.

Activities include an October 26 awards banquet at Anderson Hall.