Acorn Lane residents

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 10, 2010

By John Howell Sr.

Residents who live on Acorn Lane and others who own property adjacent to Sand Creek between Court Street and the American Legion Park will soon be contacted by representatives of the city seeking permission to enter their property to improve the creek’s drainage.

About a dozen homeowners with property adjacent or near Sand Creek attended Tuesday’s meeting of Batesville’s mayor and aldermen seeking help for erosion problems created when heavy rains fill the waterway with fast, rushing water.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We are losing our yards at an alarming rate, and this will adversely affect our property values if something is not done,” Acorn Lane resident Mariam Wahl said, reading from a prepared statement.

“We believe that proper maintenance along what is known as the Sand Ditch and its tributaries would go a long way toward mitigating this problem,” Wahl continued.

Drainage tax?

Wahl presented recommendations that one percent of individual and business property tax be set aside to update the city’s drainage system or that a one percent per $1,000 city property valuation be levied as a separate city drainage tax.

“We all want to see Batesville grow and expand …,” Wahl said, but “… with the new construction, there is less green space to absorb the rainfall … during moderate to heavy rains, the system  we now have can’t handle all the runoff.”

Wahl’s remarks led to a ranging discussion of possible solutions and suggestions among residents and city officials.

Mayor Autrey said that Acorn Lane was not eligible for work funded through two recent grants to the city for drainage work and erosion control.

On Tubbs Road, work has yet to begin on a Community Development Block Grant-funded grant for drainage and erosion. The location received CDBG approval based on the number of moderate to low income residents who live along Tubbs Road, Autrey said.

At the American Legion Park, rip rap was placed along the ditch bank last summer to stop erosion in a project funded by a Natural Resources Conservation Service grant.

“They have a government program and we do different sections of the city; … we showed them Acorn Lane. We walked the ditch and they chose the ball park, and they would not choose that (Acorn Lane). It’s all left up to government engineers,” the mayor said.

Ed Woodall, who owns a home in the subdivision told city officials that the rip rap newly-placed at American Legion Park “compounded our problems. “

“It backs up more into our area from the bridge because not enough water can get under there,” Woodall said. “I’m not sure rip rap is the answer, especially to flooding.”

“We’re not asking for the grants — we’ll accept them — we’re asking for us to pay our own way,” said Carol Roberson, another Acorn Lane homeowner, referring to the proposed levy of a drainage tax.

“We’re not talking about just the people on Acorn Lane — our property is being damaged — but this is a problem for most of the city,” Wahl said. “All of the water that comes to Acorn Lane comes from runoff from other parts of the city.”

“Who owns the ditch? We do or the town?” Jerry Wages asked.

The ditch is privately owned with property lines extending to the center of the creek.

“In other words, y’all are using our ditch to run y’all’s water down through there,” Wages quipped, prompting laughter.

“How do we determine which is our water?” Alderman Bill Dugger responded, sparking another round of laughter.

“Everybody, either directly or indirectly, has to use that ditch,” another resident said, acknowledging the large Sand Creek watershed that includes most of the geographic area within Batesville’s corporate limits.

After about 40 minutes of back and forth discussion, Pat Ross asked city officials for a summary of what they plan to do.

“We’ve been trying to get on the ditches, we’ve got that problem over the whole city,” Alderman Ted Stewart said. “Don’t think we’re not thinking about it; we’re thinking about it and we’re planning to do something about it.

The city’s response took further shape late in the meeting when Mendrop-Wages Engineering’s Keith Quick presented the city engineer’s report.

“Keith, have you got any common sense suggestions about some things we might could do to that ditch over there? That our city employees could do go over there and do?” Alderman Stan Harrison asked.

Quick responded that removing downed trees and debris from the channel would help reduce erosion.

“I would be real reluctant to go in there and cut any live trees along those creekbanks or any other vegetation unless you are at the point to implement erosion measures. If you go in there and start cutting those trees then obviously you don’t have that root mass and that root ball there to stabilize that bank,” he said.

The engineer said that a trackhoe could be used to lift larger pieces from the stream.

Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell told the city officials that written permission from property owners would be needed for city employees and equipment to work in the ditch. Dugger made the motion directing the mayor and Mitchell to get the written permission to allow the work to begin. It passed unanimously.

Loose ends

• Construction of homes in Acorn Lane began in 2002, city code administrator Pam Comer said. The subdivision was built to building code specifications and elevation requirements then in effect.

• Though the creek bank erosion affecting Acorn Lane and other areas is caused by excessive runoff from rainfall, the issue is only peripherally related to the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) update currently underway in Panola County. The proposed flood map designates large areas of the city previously unaffected as lying in special flood hazard areas. The city engineer is currently gathering elevation and hydraulic information to make a case that much of the area now proposed for special flood hazard designation does not belong in the classification. Stay tuned to coming editions.

• Tuesday’s visitors included at least two residents from other areas of the city with drainage problems. Dave Billingsley told officials about problems at his residence on Lomax Street. Robin Lane resident Janie Womble also attended. Her property is further upstream along Sand Creek and is also impacted by runoff erosion.