I returned home from Philly to find that our neighborhood had flooded – again. The torrential rains we had while I was away landed our street in the news just about every day. It doesn’t take torrential rains. Just a normal rain will produce a large pool at the end of our stream in which one can even find ducks wimming. It doesn’t even had to rain here – just upstream.
The problem is overdevelopment, specifically, development with little or no regard for how it impacts watershed areas. As areas are denuded of vegetation, topsoil is washed into the Brushy Creek watershed, which includes Lake Fairfield. The watershed drains four major corridors in Greenville – Pelham Road, East North Street, Pleasantburg, and Wade Hampton – and flooding affects several large neighborhoods besides ours.
County Council has always sided with developers over homeowners in these matters. In the most recent example, Bob Jones University planned a development for an area on Wade Hampton Boulevard which would include a hotel and high-density housing. The development would remove one of the last stands of trees that provides a buffer between the Lake Forest Shopping Center and the McCarter Community, and would havce contributed even more runoff and siltation upstream of the lake. Rather than follow normal procedures for approving zoning requests, County Council (many of whom are affiliated with BJU) tried to sneak this one in under the radar, and rushed to an approval vote. A community awareness effort brought out protesters, many of them who spoke very eloquently. Of course, the BJU-laden council approved the plan, despite environmental studies and any other data showing the impact of the project.
|The pink shading shows Lake Fairfield’s original borders. The yellow indicates area prone to flooding.
According to Wallace Smith, a neighbor gets the worst of the flooding, the lake has diminished in size from fifteen acres to five acres since 1980. This would coincide with an increase in development in the area bounded by East North Street and Pelham Road. At it’s original size, all houses along Lake Fairfield Drive, Heritage Road, and Rockmont Road had lakefront property. Now from Heritage there is no indication that a lake exists just on the other side of the trees. In just the three years that we have lived here, we have watched one spit of sand grow larger and more visible with each rain.
According to Councilman Bob Taylor, dean of the College of Arts at BJU, several solutions are being explored, including cementing the Brushy Creek bed and flood area, or purchasing the affected houses and establishing a flood plain. Both of these are seriously flawed. A concrete waterway will still fill with silt, and will just destroy the natural beauty of the area (or what remains of it.) Purchasing the houses will only postpone the problem. As more silt fills in the stream and lake, more houses upstream will be affected, and the flood plain will increase.
Dredging is probably the only solution at this point. In talking with a neighbor when we first moved in, he said that a plan to dredge the lake had been explored, but that it would cost nearly $750,000. My guess is that the cost is much, much more. Since the lake is owned privately, it doesn’t really qualify for grant or public funding. I don’t know if providing public access to the area would change that status. I also have mixed feelings about such a project. The grassy marsh that now exists where the lake once was behind my house is a wonderful habitat for migratory birds. The area on the upper end of the lake is now a forested swamp, which again provides an amazing habitat for all kinds of wildlife. I would love to see at least some of that preserved, even if a dredging problem is undertaken.
References from Greenville News:
- Neighborhood floods twice in one week – June 30, 2005
- BJU proposal draws skeptical crowd – September 20, 2004
- Flooding brings drainage woes back to surface – June 13, 2003
- A white April. Who’d a thunk it? – April 10, 2003
|Construction on East North Street with no run-off control
|And more flooding
|Marshland behind our house formed from silt
|Sandbars that are growing