Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.|
This is the rainwater detention pond behind the new Crossings shopping center. Residents living nearby are concerned that overflow during heavy rains will flood their property.
Some Southeast Decatur residents link recent water overflow to The Crossings shopping center
By Catherine Godbey
In March 1973 severe thunderstorms ravaged the Tennessee Valley.
Referred to as a 100-year flood, water crested at 569 feet above sea level on the Tennessee River, 11 feet above flood stage. Along with portions of Alabama 36, the flood closed Alabama 20 east and west of Decatur.
Cecil Endsley remembers that storm as the last time his neighborhood severely flooded ... until this year.
During a period designated by the National Weather Service as an extreme drought, some residents may wonder what caused the recent flooding.
However, Endsley and fellow resident Billy Crosswhite are certain they know the reason.
The residents of a Southeast Decatur neighborhood, situated east of U.S. 31 and south of Alabama 67, attribute the flooding to The Crossings, the developing shopping center scheduled to open in October.
Buildings and asphalt now cover the 26 acres of once-undeveloped land adorned with trees and grass. Replacing the undeveloped land with asphalt depletes the amount of water that naturally soaks into the ground and increases the runoff.
To cope with drainage issues, Cecil Endsley paid to install two 20-inch pipes on his property in 1988.
“We live in a low area,” Crosswhite said. “Our neighborhood had a small drainage problem to begin with and building the Target shopping center has just made the problem worse.”
Since construction began in September the possibility of excess drainage concerned Endsley and Crosswhite.
Crosswhite and other residents met with then acting city engineer Carl Prewitt last fall. Prewitt informed them GBT Realty Corp., developer of The Crossings, included a storm system in designs that would control the amount of water released onto the surrounding community.
Residents also expressed their concerns last year to District 3 City Councilman Gary Hammon, who discussed the potential drainage issues with the engineers.
“I trust the decisions and designs of the civil engineers,” Hammon said.
“They are the ones who are certified and trained on this topic.”
Don Robinson, construction director at GBT, said GBT planned for a retention pond and storm system on site that would compensate for the loss of natural drainage.
Courtesy photo by Cecil Endsley|
This is Cecil Endsley’s backyard July 17, after a heavy downpour. Endsley’s property is directly behind the The Crossings shopping Center in Decatur, which is under construction.
A team of engineers studied the amount of rainfall that historically fell in the area during a specific time period. They then calculated how much water undeveloped land would take in and how much would run off.
From these estimates the engineers determined the size of the retention pond and drainage pipes.
“The two pipes that control how much water is released are 36 inches but the basin is an irregular shape, so I don’t know the exact volume it will hold,” Robinson said. “I do know that it is designed to at least store water from a 100-year storm.”
Following the natural southeast slope of the land, the water released from the 36-inch pipes flows from the retention pond into Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Located between the retention pond and the refuge is Endsley’s property.
To cope with drainage issues, Endsley paid to install two 20-inch pipes on his property in 1988.
“My yard would still flood a little after I had the pipes put in but not to the extent it is flooding now with all of that blacktop,” Endsley said.
After a rare thunderstorm last month, water covered two-thirds of Endsley’s backyard for more than three hours.
Endsley attributes the standing water to the 20-inch pipes
in his yard not being able to handle the water released from the retention pond’s 36-inch pipes.
Mayor Don Kyle said this particular storm resulted in standing water in many sections of Decatur and he believes the extreme drought exacerbated the runoff.
The released water swept over dry land instead of encountering lush vegetation that would absorb a portion of it.
Fighting unusual drought conditions, Endsley and Crosswhite can only wait and see how the drainage system will operate during normal weather patterns.
“We can’t do anything now. Everything’s already decided,” Crosswhite said. “The best we can do is talk to the City Council about opening up the ditch.”
If flooding continues to occur, Endsley suggests laying two 36-inch pipes adjacent to the Morgan County Board of Education building and running the water through those pipes onto the refuge.
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