Monday, June 14, 2010

Metro to use adviser to guide Nashville flood rebuilding

Metro hopes federal money would fund consultant's projects

By Anne Paine • THE TENNESSEAN • June 14, 2010


Metro plans to seek out a consultant to develop a long-term community flood recovery plan that could open the door to federal grants and other post-disaster funding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers a variety of financial assistance for towns, though part of that requires going through such a planning process.

"First and foremost is to look at mitigation, reinvestment and redevelopment," said Curt Garrigan, assistant director of Metro Parks, who is overseeing infrastructure and planning for the mayor's flood recovery team.

The team already has gone over work that consultants did for a couple of other towns, including in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after catastrophic flooding there in 2008.

Metro will issue a request for proposals from consultants to assist here, which could go out before next month, Garrigan said. The cost hasn't been determined.

The consultant would be asked to look at such things as housing impacts, strategies for possible new housing or infill and neighborhood stabilization adjacent to flood-affected areas.

"Part of it is to engage the community," Garrigan said. "Through the summer, we would want to have some public meetings."

Work had been under way already on an open space strategy — called Nashville: Naturally — for Metro to balance conservation and growth, and the two plans will be complementary, he said.

After flooding early last month wrecked thousands of homes and killed at least 10 people, Metro Councilman Darren Jernigan of Old Hickory wanted to ban all building in flood plains.

He now has put his bill to do so on hold and backs the plans to bring in a consultant.

"We're going to have to identify flood plains and flood fringes," Jernigan said. "There are several things we want to talk about."

Creating storage for water during high floods — including wetlands that can hold water — is among the ideas, he said.

Several towns and cities have been devastated by flooding in the past few years, and they've turned to various ways to try to lessen the chance and extent of damage in the future.

They include considering what land is built upon, how much land is developed that sends runoff into creeks and lakes, as well as where levees are and how high they are.

Town revises river plan
Cedar Rapids found itself mostly underwater in mid-June 2008, losing 310 city facilities, including City Hall along with every other administrative building.

Ironically, the city had earlier declared it would be the "year of the river" to highlight and find ways to take more advantage of Cedar River, which runs through it.

"What a year it became," said Sandi Fowler, assistant to the city manager.
Because of greenway and other river-related planning under way, consultants were already under contract when the waters inundated the community. That allowed work on a flood management and redevelopment strategy to start immediately, she said.

Ten neighborhood plans were developed as the community mulled what the town should look like in the future and how it should be rebuilt.

The focus is still on the river, but ways to reduce flooding are essential now. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying the feasibility of a proposal the city has made that could cost at least $600 million. Federal funds would be requested for it.

Under consideration are more green space to soak up water and enhanced levees and floodwalls, including permanent and removable ones downtown.

Pillars would be put in place along the river in downtown, and workers would use heavy equipment to attach metal walls to them before floods hit.

"You have the view of downtown at all times except at times of a flood," Fowler said.

Infrastructure upgraded
In Indianapolis, where the White River leapt out of its banks in 2008, about $88 million is being spent on repairs to infrastructure, according to city public works spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple.

Fixing storm drains and keeping them clear has been a big part of the approach, she said.

Better communication has been established for flooding emergencies, and sections of town have been identified and targeted for quick help in any future flooding, she said.

In Nashville, Councilman Jernigan said his bottom line is still to see residential development eliminated in areas where residents might one day find their homes underwater.

"The day of a developer going in and building something, making their money and leaving is gone," he said. "They need to care about the people living there."

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