Creek improvements in Bristol reduce flood risk


BRISTOL, Tenn. - With recent rain and flooding in parts of our area, we wanted to check in on the flood risks downtown in Bristol. It is highly susceptible to flooding, since Beaver Creek runs right through it. News 5's Kristi O'Connor finds out how the two cities are making significant changes to reduce the flood risk. According to FEMA's flood maps, downtown Bristol lies in right in the middle of a flood plain. Over the last decade, the twin cities partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers to reduce the flood risk downtown. They took on four projects: rerouting the water outlet at the Sugar Hollow Dam, opening the flood channel for Beaver Creek where the old Sears building use to be downtown, widening the creek banks near Volunteer Parkway and most recently the 8th street bridge project. "That project right there probably had the biggest impact on downtown," Director of Public Works Tim Beavers said. Beavers says they look at flood potential by the type of storm, one that is likely to happen every 10 years, 20 years, 100 years and so on. "There is a one percent chance of a 100 year flood to happen in any given year, and the 100 year flood is going to be more severe than a 10 year flood," Meteorologist David Boyd explained. For a 100 year flood, some businesses downtown could see flood waters reach up to four, five maybe even six feet, but after these four projects are complete the flood risk will drop by nearly a foot. "It still means downtown will flood during the hundred year event," Beavers said. But the depth will drop, and the flood plain may shrink. Meaning outlying properties in the flood plain now, would not have much to worry about anymore. Downtown business owner Hugh Testerman remembers the last 20 year storm, the flooding of 1977. "It started at the Cameo in that area and was a foot, maybe two foot deep," Testerman said. Beavers says the hope is that the flood plain will reduce and flood insurance rates will drop. "It saves money, it's all about saving money," Beavers said. The improvements cost roughly $7 million. The Army Corps of Engineers paid for 65 percent of the work, the cities split the rest.