Update: Eubanks Creek

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Developers Jason Watkins (lefty) and Roy Decker update residents on hoped-for plans for Eubanks Creek. Photo: Find It In Fondren™

Special to Fondren Renaissance (Find It In Fondren™)

Here’s what we know about efforts to bring some relief to the ever overflowing Eubanks Creek behind the former McRae’s building after a well-attended public meeting last night in Fondren, sponsored by Fondren Renaissance.

• While new tenant Venyu Solutions helped to initiate the mitigation process, it’s the City of Jackson that will take the project forward.

Dr. Charles Williams, the city’s Engineering Manager, was praised by developers Roy Decker and Jason Watkins for helping place the Eubanks Creek flooding issues to the forefront of spending priorities for 2016’s funding plans using the the recently voted in 1% sales tax increase.

The next steps? A design consultant will be selected by January 1, 2016 to conduct a “true survey” to come up with the best options. Plans for two future town halls were announced, giving residents a voice in the final work to be completed.

• Hydrologist Bill Colson has been working on behalf of Venyu to redraw FEMA floodplain maps that he says have been “wrong since they came out in the 1980’s.” The Eubanks Creek project will dramatically lower the flood plain in the Choctaw/Eubanks area, and will bring much needed relief from street flooding and other issues after heavy rains.

The changes, once accepted by FEMA (which could be a year from now to be made official) would lower the flood plain in some places two to three feet, giving some residents the ability to cancel their flood insurance all together, if not significantly lower their premiums.

• Under current plans, three major components would open the creek to a better flow. Those call for widening the creek bottom to twenty feet (where available), removing the Seminole Avenue vehicle bridge (to be replaced by a pedestrian bridge) and connecting Choctaw Road to Kings Highway to allow vehicle traffic another way out.

• As of now, there’s no set plan in place for maintenance once the work is done. Manpower is the issue. With a crew of only 20 to keep 14 major channels comprised of over 220 miles clean, it is a daunting task. But Dr. Williams says, “We will do what we can to be committed after the project.”

Many in the audience noted proactive ways to help the city. Resident Buddy Graham implored homeowners to bag (he later added “or compost”) leaves and other yard debris rather than leaving it curb side, eventually leading it into the creek. Resident Jeff Good urged use of the City’s 311 system to report problems (including blockages of the creek and even potholes), adding, in his experience, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

• We heard from two Choctaw Road (which runs directly behind the Venyu property) residents who are severely affected following any storm with significant rainfall. Bill Wilson says his property floods six times a year. Colson says, while flooding will still be possible, the opening of the channel would lessen the flooding affects. Once Decker explained underground efforts by Venyu to elevate storm water runoff from their property, Wilson noted how this alone would likely help his problem

Dr. Scott Crawford, also on Choctaw, has been a vocal advocate of the drainage issues, and says the replacement of the State Street bridge – which is under local maintenance agreements, not State control – would serve a two-fold purpose: the opening of the creek’s flow and the addition of sidewalks, giving better accessibility to all. Dr. Williams says it’s a measure they would have to look into if doing so would be cheaper in the long run. “We are looking at everything,” Dr. Williams noted.

• Watkins noted that, by their lease, the University of Mississippi Medical’s Center’s Telehealth Center being built adjacent to the Venyu data center, would be ready for move in by December 31, 2016. He noted that Venyu should be settled in to their own space by that same time. Between the two entities, around 350-400 workers will be on campus every day. Construction has begun on the interior of the former McRae’s building.

eubanks-firm-mapSee a full size PDF of the rendering (click here) (Note: “This is the PROPOSED revised FIRM map. It has not yet been approved but has cleared most of the review process. Once approved, it will be dependent on the City completing its corrective maintenance work and FEMA’s verification.  If all goes well and according to schedule, the City will complete its work by the end of 2016 and FEMA will subsequently make the map change official.” – Roy Decker)

© 2016, Fondren Renaissance Foundation