County studying stormwater problems

Published 7:16 am Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A string of residents concerned about flooding problems in their neighborhoods came before county commissioners Tuesday night to voice their complaints and hear any possible solutions.

The largest group of residents was from the Meadowbrook Estates subdivision, located off Georgia 97 South about three miles southwest of Bainbridge. Resident Corene Jones said stormwater flooding has been an ongoing problem in the subdivision, which was first developed in the 1960s, according to Tax Assessor records.

“Our entire neighborhood could be considered a flood zone,” Jones said. “There have been times [during recent flooding] where we can’t get out of our homes and people have had to evacuate.”

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According to resident Willie Calloway, there are two properties in the subdivision which were bought by a government entity due to flooding damage and are now fenced in. Calloway suggested that stormwater holding ponds be built on the vacant lots, an idea at least one other neighbor, Marcus Close, believed could help.

County Administrator Tom Patton said county officials would like to see holding ponds built but federal law prohibits them from being built on “buyout” properties. Patton said he has spoken with both of Georgia’s U.S. Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, as well as U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, about the law and county officials’ belief that it should be changed.

Bishop personally toured Meadowbrook subdivision, as well as the Slough Loop community and other areas damaged by this spring’s flooding, back in April and is aware of the issues involved, Patton said. If holding ponds were built on the buyout properties without a change to existing law, the federal government could cite Decatur County for violating environmental law and require the ponds be filled in, he said.

“All we can do is cut the grass on the [buyout properties], rather than put in retention ponds like we’d like to,” Patton said. “I think that would alleviate a lot of the problems you’ve been experiencing…Right now, we just maintain [the lots]. Why not utilize them for something that could actually help people?”

County commissioners heard about two other areas where stormwater runoff has caused problems: Oglethorpe Road, located north of the Slough Loop between Georgia 97 North and Georgia 309 North; and King Thomas Drive, located off Georgia 253 South in the Bethany community.

As for the Slough Loop, Patton said county officials are still actively applying for disaster aid to help mitigate damage caused by heavy rainfall and flooding of the Flint River between March 26-April 2. Patton said further work may be possible to direct the natural depression’s stormwater runoff away from homes. Excavation of earth in the Slough Loop prior to Tropical Storm Fay’s deluge of Southwest Georgia in August 2008 did have a noticeable, positive effect, he said.