Lebanon leaders recently discussed flooding throughout the city following another round of heavy rainfall that caused flash flooding, road closures and threatened a major city road.
The most recent flash flooding event caused a portion of South Cumberland Street to close due to several inches of flood water covering the roadway, which is not an unusual occurrence during heavy rain.
“I know there’s been a lot of discussion about the Square and the flooding issues,” Councilor Joey Carmack said. “The Square is built on a creek, and, eventually, if you get enough water, when it comes a flash flood there’s nowhere for it to go and it’s going to come out.”
Lebanon Police Chief Mike Justice said the department utilized its volunteer weather team to monitor the South Cumberland flooding, and noted the joint effort with Lebanon Fire Department and Lebanon Public Works Department.
“In my 30 years, I’ve seen it improve,” Justice said. “Luckily, there wasn’t a whole lot of damage we can report as far as interior of homes.”
Carmack and other councilors expressed desire to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about possible remedies for the flooding, particularly on and around the Lebanon Square.
Lebanon Public Works Director Jeff Baines said discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Barton’s Creek Watershed Flood Risk Management Project were deferred until next year. The city’s cost would be $750,000 in a 65/35 percent partnership split with the agency.
The project is estimated to relieve about six inches of flood damage in the area between Stumpy Lane —just south of Southside Elementary School — and the Lebanon Square by installing a dry dam near Stumpy Lane.
“I don’t know if we should wait until 2021. I think it minimizes the importance of the Square when we say ‘well, it’s just the Square,’ ” Councilor Jeni Lind Brinkman said. “It’s the center of our town, and that’s something we need to take seriously, and it is a high-risk area in terms of flooding.”
Brinkman suggested the city re-engage with the Corps of Engineers as soon as possible.
Army Corps engineers said the city has experienced flooding every 10 to 20 years since 1928, including 1989 and 2010. Floodwaters in the Lebanon Square reached as high as three feet in May 1979, four feet in August 1939 and almost three feet in May 2010.
Sinking Creek runs under the west side of Lebanon Square and flows under several multiple story structures in the downstream area. Although it appears dry in areas upstream of the Square, Sinking Creek is a very flashy stream and flash floods rise quickly.
“Our Square is different, and our downtown is flat. I believe that over the years, many people have looked at what we could do to help with that flooding situation, and I know that we will continue to do that and try to make the best out of the situation we have,” said Councilor Camille Burdine, who suggested the city look at its stormwater funds and resources, and possibly bring in a consultant to study flooding throughout the city.
Councilor Tick Bryan said flooding is an issue in residential neighborhoods just as much as the downtown area. Bryan said he toured his district during the most recent flooding episode and noted one issue that faces the city in its battle against flooding.
“We need to, also, understand that there’s a liability issue with the city concerning going on private property,” he said.
Bryan said property owners must take responsibility for brush, trees, debris and similar items that clog up drainage that would likely affect several other properties. Baines noted the city is responsible for public right-of-ways.
“Sometimes we can help folks, and sometimes we can’t. We try not to mislead people and give them some false impression we can fix something,” Baines said.
Baines said citizens with potential issues should contact the Public Works Department.
In 2019, the Nashville area saw 64.27 inches of rainfall, making it the third-wettest year on record. As of Sept. 17, the area has recorded just more than 43 inches.