Opinion: Failure in leadership led to Nashville's Great Flood and continued flooding after

Dec 17, 2020 at 11:40 am by robmtchl

Downtown Nashville in the days after the May 2010 flood. (Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

The record rainfall before 2010 was way back in 1979 when the remnants of Hurricane Frederick on May 5th dropped 6.68 inches on Nashville. The Mill Creek area in Antioch and South Nashville was devastating. For the second time in four years Nashville experienced a once in 100-year flood event.

The Mill Creek Watershed is located in one of the most rapidly urbanizing areas of Middle Tennessee, the 108-square mile Mill Creek

Watershed drains about 13% of Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee and 6% of Williamson County, Tennessee. The watershed has a teardrop shape, is about 18 miles long and averages 6 miles wide. About two thirds of the watershed is within Davidson County, one third in Williamson County and a small headwater area extends into Rutherford County.

Following the flooding in May 1979 flood control became a very hot political issue. Citizens in the southeast section of Nashville and eastern Williamson County around Nolensville had become fed up with the constant flooding. Politicians listened and even campaigned that they would address the issue. They kept their word and a new law was passed to prevent this in the future.

TCA 64-3-101 was passed by the State Legislature to create the Mill Creek Watershed Flood Control Authority by legislators from Davidson, Williamson and Rutherford counties in 1980 following the massive flooding in Nashville in 1979. The citizens were appeased. However, the governments of Davidson, Rutherford and Williamson counties had to pass local ordinances to empower the creation. After passing the law to create the watershed flood control authority, it was never empowered by the local governments! Thus contributing to the devastation of 2010.

Mill Creek and her tributaries still flooded and more taxpayer money was spent on more studies. A 1986 study recommended the

construction of a dam at Mile 16.81 on Mill Creek, constructing a dam at Mile 3.70 on Seven Mile Creek, and widening a section of Seven Mile Creek from Mile 0.70 to 1.51. The recommended plan was congressionally authorized for construction but never completed due to public opposition. Local opposition from those who sought to exploit the status quo.

Again following still more flooding a 1996, the Corps of Engineers conducted a floodway storage analysis for the Cumberland River and Mill Creek in Davidson County (at taxpayer expense, I might add) to evaluate the requirement to compensate storage for fill in the

floodway fringe. Results of the analysis indicated that compensation storage was necessary along most of the Mill Creek

main stem to attenuate flood hydrographs and minimize encroachment surcharge.

We are a decade past the 2010 flood. The Mill Creek Watershed has more growth and greater run off now than in years past. We know there is a problem. We have solutions. Perhaps it is time for the legislature to dust off TCA 64-3-101 and give another generation of elected officials a chance to correct and injustice and potentially save lives and prevent additional loss due to a flood issue we know how to solve.

We just need the political backbones to make it happen.

https://tn.water.usgs.gov/flood/mill_harpeth_cumberland_final.pdf



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