Johnson City drainage project reduces flood risk, beautifies downtown
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - After heavy flooding at Bristol Motor Speedway on race weekend, we decided to start looking into flood plains in our cities. Monday we asked Bristol, Tenn. Public Works about the flooding. We learned BMS is too far down in the watershed for any recent projects to have an impact. however, four recent projects are expected to reduce flooding potential downtown by nearly a foot in a severe, 100-year, storm. We continued our research and went to Johnson City to check in on the flood reduction progress downtown. News 5's Kristi O'Connor finds out how the drainage project is doing more for the city than reducing the flood risk. The last 100-year-storm in Johnson City was not that long ago. In 2003, downtown was overwhelmed with heavy flooding. Owner of Campbell Morell's Music, David Campbell, says its something he and his workers were getting sick of. "Too much moisture on the instruments is not good so we would take everything upstairs or move it wherever we have to," Campbell said. The music store has been located downtown for 32 years and he almost moved because of the flooding. After the 2003 storm, the city went to work to reduce the problem. Public Works Director Phil Pindzola says they issued a $3.00 utility fee on citizens in 2005, to help pay for the $10 million project ahead of them.
Pindzola says they also issued new requirements on businesses in the flood plain. Owners would either have to reconfigure their properties to meet 100-year-storm requirements, rather than the previous 1-year-storm requirement, or find a new property off-site. He says storm grates on the street were not enough to drain the water, which means they had to make significant changes to the King and Brush Creek culverts. "Everything was incapsulating by buildings, so we had to eliminate the buildings," Pindzola said. For example, King Creek used to flow beneath the old U-Haul building in downtown, the city asked U-Haul, and other properties, to relocate so the creek could be open and widened. The process at both Brush and King Creeks, made 2,000 more feet of capacity for the creeks. "It couldn't handle a 2 year storm, but now we believe we're up to a 5-year or 10-year storm," Pindzola said. If King Creek or Brush Creek overflows, it has a retention pond off of Boone Street for back flow. The city hit two birds with one stone on this project: reducing the flood issue downtown and beautifying it as well. The drainage project created both Founder's Park and coming this summer King Commons. Two reasons, David Campbell is glad he stayed. "People aren't afraid to come down here, they come down and walk now, but it used to be pretty dark on this side of the tracks," Campbell said. Pindzola says if there is another severe storm like in 2003, downtown will still flood, but it will not be flooded for as long as before.