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VOL. 133 | NO. 25 | Friday, February 2, 2018

Resiliency Concept Goes Broader With Master Plan

By Bill Dries

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With three projects about to start moving dirt and $60 million in federal funding to do them, the concept of resiliency in Shelby County is moving, even though it’s in the shadows of other plans such as the Mid-South Greenprint and the development of the Wolf River Greenway.

The resiliency movement is allied with both the greenprint and greenway.

It is the idea of amenities and development that address recovering from calamities like flooding, earthquakes and high winds, with a goal of making it easier to recover. The planning takes that a step further to include “benefit solutions” – a planner’s term that means projects like a water retention or detention area could double as a recreational area.

That’s one of the three resiliency projects slated for Shelby County. The Big Creek Floodway in Millington – a floodway created between an existing levee to the north and U.S. 51 to the south, which is elevated – would be a place for floodwaters to go, bypassing Millington and the Naval Support Activity Mid-South campus there, both of which flooded in 2010 and 2011.

A set of three public meetings this week in Shelby County and Southaven kicked off the development of a resilience master plan for the region that is due in final draft form in October. The plan follows three resiliency projects in Shelby County awarded $60 million in a federal grant that are now getting underway. (Daily News/Bill Dries)

Public hearings held in East Memphis, Millington and Southaven this week marked the opening of an effort, also funded by the same grant, to create a broader plan beyond the three resiliency projects already underway.

The Shelby County Office of Resiliency plans to have the final draft of a Mid-South Regional Resilience Master Plan by October that will cover all of Shelby and Desoto counties as well as parts of Fayette and Marshall counties.

“This is the one that’s looking at the largest scale and the most comprehensively at different themes and different issues,” said Chris Horne, part of the team from Boston-based Sasaki Associates Inc., which is consulting on the project and also will try to identify funding sources for the larger regional plan.

Like the three resiliency grant projects, the master plan is a reaction to Memphis-area flooding in 2011 when the Mississippi River at Memphis crested at 48 feet, its second-highest level since records were kept, surpassed only by the 1937 flood.

Horne pointed to the economic impact of the flooding there and along the local tributaries of the Mississippi – the Loosahatchie and Wolf rivers, Big Creek, Cypress Creek and Nonconnah Creek.

The 2011 flood caused $2 billion in property damage in the Memphis area. Flooding in the area between 2007 and 2017 caused $3.1 billion in damage. The same decade saw $89 million in damage from flash floods, $17.8 million in wind damage and $104.5 million from tornadoes.

The goal of resiliency is for communities to “survive, adapt and grow no matter what kind of chronic stresses and acute shocks,” by the federal government definition for purposes of funding projects.

“Not everything that we are talking about is catastrophic. A lot of these things are just more a chronic quality of life issue,” Horne told a group of 14 gathered Wednesday, Jan. 31, at Baker Community Center in Millington. “Those are still very important too – things like excessive heat, excessive cold, winter weather, drought, standing water due to insufficient drainage.”

Shelby County public works director Tom Needham said resiliency goes beyond dealing with the immediate problem or emergency.

“What if there is a flood and the grocery stores are flooded? Think of snow. You think about bread and milk because everybody goes and gets it,” he said. “Think about how does this affect you and what can be done in the future on these types of events to make it easier for you to recover from those events. You can’t stop it. Just like you can’t stop death.”

Along with that is the concept of multi-benefit solutions.

“Yes, we want to invest in making the region more resilient. But while we are doing that, we also want to identify opportunities that are sort of perennial ongoing needs,” Horne said. “Invest in outdoor recreation, invest in economic development, invest in public health. A lot of initiatives that make good sense from a resilience perspective are also just good initiatives in general.”

The two other resiliency projects funded by the earlier $60 million federal grant include a Wolf River restoration in Frayser and Raleigh as part of the Wolf River Greenway, and a voluntary buyout of homeowners in a easily flooded area of southwest Memphis.

Improvements at Rodney Baber Park in Frayser include elevating the area where the park’s flood-prone ballfields are with dirt from a fishing lake to be created to the east of the raised area and from a wetlands area to the west.

The Memphis City Council approved $120,000 in city funding in November to buy property east of the park as part of the project.

The voluntary buyout, meanwhile, applies to homeowners in southwest Memphis on the flood plain bordering Cypress Creek, where some homes frequently flood and also are vacant and/or blighted.

Farther west of those homes is an uninhabited part of the flood plain that the Strickland administration is proposing for de-annexation in an effort separate from the resiliency project.

The Cypress Creek resiliency project also would include new bike lanes along Mitchell Road connecting the rest of the neighborhood to T.O. Fuller State Park, as well as new neighborhood trails to Roosevelt Park, Mitchell High School and Ford Road Elementary School.

PROPERTY SALES 56 94 12,852
MORTGAGES 23 50 8,053
BUILDING PERMITS 285 422 30,356
BANKRUPTCIES 23 67 6,131