Darnell Drive residents are all wet and they are not happy about it. They are calling upon city officials to fix the flooding problem that has seen their neighborhood submerged during the recent heavy rain events.
“Around April of every year an empty lot across the street from 1320 Old Estill Springs Road holds a massive amount of water, and drains fully into numerous city residents’ yards, soaking wood fences, destroying driveways and causing foundation damage to other homes.” explained Darnell Drive resident Joshua Small in his letter to the city of Tullahoma. His letter includes several signatures of at least 10 equally irritated neighbors calling for something to be done.
Residents point out the runoff water does not drain properly through the city’s ditches. The issue has been pointed out to city officials, residents say, but as far as they can tell, nothing has been done.
“I have contacted the city for the third year in a row about this issue,” he said. “I get told they will check into it every year but I have not seen anyone out here or had anyone talk to us or our neighbors."
Small is in hopes a signature list of neighborhood residents will get the city’s attention before the next flooding event comes around.
According to city officials, the city can only maintain the right-of-way around private properties, meaning some action can’t be taken by the city in preventing excess flooding and is instead homeowners’ responsibility.
The city adopted a stormwater ordinance in 2004 to manage runoff and flooding when new buildings or neighborhoods were constructed. The Darnell Drive homes, however, known as the Town & Country subdivision on official maps, was constructed in the 1980s, when there were very few stormwater regulations, according to Public Information Officer Winston Brooks. He said the area is “low lying and has a level grade.”
Generally speaking, Brooks said, the issue of stormwater and managing runoff flow is “an immensely complex challenge that affects public safety to property rights, from the environment to the health and welfare of citizens.” Even further, Brooks said the stormwater system “cannot handle all extreme rain events.”
The city currently manages stormwater through stormwater permits, site grading permits, subdivision regulations and active maintenance, which includes clearing ditches, drains and culverts and the annual leaf collection.
Alderman Robin Dunn, who sits on the city’s Go Green council, said addressing the flooding around town, including on Darnell Drive, must be a collaborative effort between both city officials and private citizens.
When shown images and video of the flooding on Darnell Drive, Dunn said she was “frustrated” at the increased storm water issues that keep happening around town.
“No question, it is time for action,” she said. “I will continue to seek Federal and State grant opportunities, but The Board of Mayor and Aldermen must find funding for stormwater in our local budget as well. Citizens expect the City to properly maintain its infrastructure. The Board must properly fund the infrastructure budget so that our city workers can carry out this monumental task.”
Dunn has brought up the issue of the city’s stormwater drainage system recently in city board meetings, stating the city needs to do more to help residents curb flooding on their properties and in city roadways.
On the individual front, Dunn said there are several ways private citizens can help reduce the amount of flooding around their homes.
“Citizens can help by monitoring ditches near their homes, installing rain barrels and planting trees,” she said. “Ditches are Tullahoma’s major form of flood prevention. Trash, limbs and other debris in ditches along the right of way and on private property prevents these waterways from working. Citizens can help prevent flooding by keeping these areas clean.”
Rain barrels that are installed along downspouts of homes can help to protect a home’s foundation from flooding, she added.
“Every drop of water in a rain barrel during a storm event is another drop out of an already saturated yard,” she said. “Just release the water after the storm so that the ground can more easily absorb it.”
Finally, Dunn said, planting more trees in Tullahoma can give the ground more water absorption.
“Safely and responsibly planted trees are a major contribution to flood control,” she said. “They absorb water quickly and prevent soil erosion.”
The city has lost thousands of trees over the last two years alone, Dunn said.
“It is not surprising that we are now seeing some of the effects of the loss of this canopy, but these things are reversible. We can all work together to help make Tullahoma a better place to live.”
Alderman Daniel Berry echoed Dunn’s concerns, saying the stormwater issue has become an urgent one in need of addressing.
“I agree with recent comments and concerns raised by Alderman Dunn in recent meetings regarding stormwater drainage and flooding issues across the city,” he told The News. “I believe the entirety of the current Board of Mayor and Aldermen understands the urgency of the situation and is ready to take action. Prioritizing fixing and updating our aging infrastructure is critical to both safety and future growth.”
Dunn said she has been assured by City Administrator Jennifer Moody that a study session on stormwater issues is forthcoming for the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Aldermen so board members can “better understand the problem and the possible solutions.”