Monday, July 1, 2013

Metro Development and Housing Agency Proposes Shifting Flood Relief Money

Posted By on Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 3:59 AM

Last week, Joey Garrison at The Tennessean reported that the Metro Development and Housing Agency is looking to shift money from flood recovery to giving us a fancy new place to listen to music downtown. Because lord knows we don't have any places to listen to music downtown.

The Metro Development and Housing Agency is looking to reallocate more than $7 million in federal flood aid from housing assistance to west bank riverfront plans.

A reprioritization of projects comes as Mayor Karl Dean prepares for the revitalization of the Cumberland River’s west bank, with an emphasis on the 12-acre former thermal transfer plant property. He already has put about $20 million toward the project in his recently approved capital spending plan.

MDHA’s chunk of dollars would go specifically toward flood mitigation along the west bank, officials say.

I have two thoughts about this. First, that part of downtown floods because it's a bottom. In fact, it used to be called Black Bottom. How are you going to stop bottomland from flooding, when that's what it's for? And here's the important thing — Black Bottom is not bottomland for the Cumberland. It's bottomland for the sizable stream that runs through that area. Yes, the stream has been wrapped in concrete and moved below street level, but it's still there. See the picture to the right.

That stream, though hidden, is still a working stream. It still conveys water out of Black Bottom into the Cumberland. So when the Cumberland floods, how, exactly, is Nashville proposing to keep the river from backing up into the Black Bottom creek? Sealing off the creek from the river? Then where's the water in the creek going to go during normal times?

I'm not saying we shouldn't try to do things about flooding downtown. I'm just saying that if your priorities are "rehab the old thermal plant into yet another place to see music in Nashville" and "find out a way to help keep Black Bottom from flooding," then your priorities are in the wrong order to actually prevent Black Bottom from flooding.

Second, I drive by West Hamilton on my way to and from work every dang day. I have not noticed the Whites Creek Greenway being expanded to a large, long park on the north side of the creek — the stark, bare floodplain a reminder of the houses that used to be there. In fact, I see a lot of houses still in that floodplain with people still living in them.

So, I'm just going to be blunt. Robert Woods died in that creek in that flood, after spending decades trying to get the city to do something about the flooding on Whites Creek. Let's go back to this City Paper story about him.

But his close friend, Robert Turney, 57, vows to continue Woods’ fight so that Woods will be the last life claimed by Whites Creek.

“The ironic thing is, he fought that creek tooth and nail for 25 or 30 years, trying to get them to widen it, deepen it or do something,” Turney said. “He was on the phone once with the storm water committee and they kept running him around and running him around, giving him this excuse or that excuse why they couldn’t do nothing. They said if you put in a bulldozer, it would kill some fish or something. The ironic thing is the thing he fought ended up killing him. It’s like a bad dream to me.”

Now, let's flash forward to May of this year, and this story over at Fox 17:

Saturday night flood water overflowed this ditch and crept toward her home, even though she says the city had promised last year to help. ...

"I made a complaint and [a city worker] came out here and they were supposed to make that deeper and wider, and to my knowledge they hadn't did anything, any improvement to help us here," Eddings said.

Eddings called the mayor's office and her councilman Lonnel Matthews but said no one ever called her back.

A guy died after years of fighting for the city to do something about flooding in Bordeaux and people in Bordeaux still can't get the help they need to deal with flooding in their neighborhood.

That this story could run in May of this year, that you can drive by and see people still living in the floodplain of a creek the city damn well knows is deadly when it floods, and the city wants to divert flood money to try to protect a not-yet-existent entertainment venue in a bottom from flooding?

It's disgusting.

Nashville, fix the problems that actually exist, first. Then work on making things nice for the tourists. Otherwise, we're like a family whose children starve and sleep on the floor while our rich house guests eat all our food and sleep in our beds. It's wonderful if our guests are impressed by our generosity. It counts for nothing if we ruin our own future to be seen as awesome by outsiders.

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