Friday, March 13, 2009

Flood Waters

I didn't know the term "gulley-washer" until I moved to Memphis. The first time I heard it, I was in my car, driving down a four-lane Poplar Avenue (the two outside lanes were flooded), and someone on the radio said "this is a real gulley washer."

I thought, that is exactly what this is. (I learned another term for it today that is even better but you'll have to read the Flyer next week to hear that one.)

Several years ago, when the city enacted the storm water fee, I wrote about flooding in several areas of the city.

And I've been following the proposed Overton Park detention basin since it was announced/came out on CPOP's blog a week or so ago.

The more I talk to people about it, the more I think this city needs to have a serious conversation about storm water and how it should deal with it.

I've talked to concerned citizens, park advocates, homeowners who have had thousands of dollars of damage to their homes because of flooding, and city engineers, and the one thing that keeps coming up — sometimes into people's basements — is that there is nowhere for the storm water to go.

The city seems to be trying to fix the problems, but we can't just keep making creek channels larger and creating detention facilities on every large piece of vacant, public land. We need to stop the problem where it starts.

As the Sierra Club's James Baker said at Wednesday night's VECA meeting, the Overton Park project is, at best, "a bandage that covers a festering wound, not anything that heals it."

We need to start looking at impermeable surfaces and how to limit them. Chicago and Portland both have green-street initiatives to helf manage storm-water run-off. In Palo Alto, California, the storm drain utility offers rebates to residents who use rain barrels, cisterns, vegetated roofs, and permeable pavements, all of which reduce the amount of run-off.


Ryan said...

I'm against all of these detention basins and all for saving any green space from becoming a public sewer, but I have speak out against rain barrels and cisterns. The prevalence of things like this led to the HUGE yellow fever outbreak that set Memphis back about 100 years in terms of progress. The standing water combined with the constant humidity here add up to a mosquito breeding ground heaven.

sbanbury said...

A lid on the rain barrel fixes the mosquito problem.

marycash said...

This is exactly the conversation we need to be having.

To be honest, I'm more focused on creating/keeping permeable surfaces instead of impermeable ones, but that take time, money, and community buy-in.