Examining flooding and development: News4 speaks with experts as Wilson County resident voice concern about rising water

Neighbors in Wilson county believe a new development is partly to blame.
Updated: Nov. 16, 2021 at 1:24 PM CST
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LEBANON, Tenn. (WSMV) - You might think it’s just the blasting happening around Fredericksburg Road in Wilson County that’s upsetting neighbors. But they say the real issue they’re worried about is water seeping into their homes and property.

Ed Ballou has lived in the neighborhood since the 70′s. But, not until this March did he notice the water start to build up.

“It was coming over the curve,” Ballou said.

“They started developing an area across the road and on the other side of us here. And since then, it’s gotten nothing but worse,” Fredericksburg road resident Matt Lannom told News4.

“We ended up getting three inches of water in our basement. A month into living here,” Fredericksburg resident Alli Morrow said.

All neighbors know is that as more land clears, flooding gets worse.

“We’ve been here since 99, and it’s just gotten worse and worse as the years have gone on,” Lannom said.

Tom Brashear is the man in charge of the Wilson County Planning Department. Brashear said the subdivision developments south of the homes are required to meet their current standards, which have been improved significantly over the last 30 years. Plus, Brashear said the drainage happening at this new development is designed to flow to a drain to the south, not in the direction of the Fredricksburg subdivision.

News4 asked Brashear how then, is it possible that homeowners are getting their homes and properties flooded.

“Well, the only thing I can explain in any type of lay person’s details is that we’re getting more intense rain events,” Brashear said.

So who’s right? Experts say they both are.

“Roofs and driveways don’t hold back water. Grasses and soils do. So, we get more intense rainfall,” Dr. Kelly Strong, Director of the School of Concrete and Construction Management at MTSU, said. “So I agree with the city. We are getting more intense rain events because of climate change. But it’s also running off faster because of development.”

Chris Currie is with the Government Accountability Office. They’re the congressional watchdog in the U.S., investigating federal spending performance Currie said Houston, Texas is a prime example. The sprawling city is grappling with climate change.

“Over decades of development, it actually changed the landscape of how flooding works and how actually directed more flooding to the city,” Currie said.

Currie said cities and counties could ask for funding to study flood mitigation, but they have to ask.

“But if there’s no proactiveness at the local level then nobody is going to come in and fix this problem,” Currie said.

Wilson County told News4 they are in the process of reaching out to FEMA and TMEA about hazard grants. They also say they have gone to different flood planning management conferences across the state and online.

Strong said it’s time for cities across the nation to rethink their flood mitigation in the wake of all this rain.

“I think designing systems that have some flexibility. So we put in retention ponds and underground storage tanks. That can be made bigger,” Dr. Strong said. “So trying to design for flexibility is one of the keys.”

These neighbors said the proof of the problem shows up with every thunderclap.

“We’re not asking for much. We just want the water to go away,” Ballou said.

Brashear said the county works hard at monitoring the current standards they have in place for developments. They also monitor closely how drainage is done for every development that comes in under their watch.

To find more information about flood insurance, click here.

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