Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have created a problem of flooding in several residential areas in McMinnville and city government is seeking emergency assistance.
One of those belongs to Sandy Hayes who lives on Calvin Street, behind Warren County Middle School, who says the situation is chronic.
“Every time we get heavy rains, it floods us out,” said Hayes. “We’ve been here three years and it happens all the time. My sister, who lives around the corner from me, has the same problem. Something needs to be done to fix it.”
Hayes says the city of McMinnville should fix the drainage issues.
“I’ve been complaining to the city for three years,” she said. “We had a broken culvert. I complained about it for a year. They finally came and ‘fixed it.’ They covered it up with dirt and left. That’s putting a band aid on the problem. That’s not fixing it. If the drainage was right, it wouldn’t do this. It gets to the point where we can’t even flush the toilet, because the water is over the lines.”
The city Streets and Sanitation Committee met Tuesday to discuss chronic drainage issues.
“Our department has always been responsive to calls and has always offered assistance to minimize or prevent flooding when possible, such as removing obstructions to clogged drains and drain tiles with backhoes during heavy rains, along with other measures,” said McMinnville Public Works Department assistant director Brad Hennessee. “We will continue to offer emergency assistance any time we can. The last few very heavy rains have highlighted that some chronic storm water drainage trouble spots may not have a feasible solution that will eliminate the possibility of water getting into or up under a residence.”
Hennessee said consideration should be given to asking the state for its assistance, which would be an agreement between city and state to purchase the properties that qualify for hazard mitigation and removing the structures on them.
City administrator Bill Brock said he has asked Hennessee and Planning and Zoning Department director Nolan Ming to contact TEMA (Tennessee Emergency Management Agency) or FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and ask about assistance, suggestions or recommendations.
“We’ve done this at least once or twice in the past,” said Brock. “We’ve bought the structure, destroyed it and getting the people out of the situation, if there’s not a cure to it. I think most of the issues we have to date there is really no cure to them. It’s just where the water drains.”
Drainage law in Tennessee is governed by the natural flow rule. Under that rule, water has a natural easement along its natural path and the upper and lower landowners must accept water that naturally flows, or that would have naturally flowed, onto the property in question.
By Tennessee Code Annotated, “A municipality is not liable in any way for a drainage problem occurring either inside or outside the municipality unless it has, itself, interfered in some way with the natural flow of the water.”
FEMA money is not available.
“Nolan has already found out all the FEMA money is going to Florida so we can’t even talk to FEMA,” said Brock. “I totally understand that. We are looking at TEMA money.”
If TEMA inspects the homes and determines they qualify for assistance, federal money would pay 75 percent, while state and local had to split the remaining 25 percent.
Hennessee said there are five or six homeowners complaining about drainage issues but it would be up to TEMA to determine if the areas qualify for the program.
The discussion was tabled until staff could obtain more information from TEMA.