$60M grant to reshape flood-prone areas

Shelby County government has been awarded a $60 million grant to use for the prevention of flood damage in communities that were affected by flooding in May 2011.

The grant will be used to create a flood plain near Millington, Wolf River Greenway work near Raleigh and Frayser, homeowner relocation in Southwest Memphis, and future flood risk research.

Shelby County was one of over 60 jurisdictions across the U.S. that competed for the Housing and Urban Development Department resiliency competition that was launched in 2014. It was funded through a $1 billion federal bill to provide assistance to parts of the Northeastern U.S. affected by Super Storm Sandy.

Some of the funding was set aside to use as a challenge to communities affected by natural disasters to think more progressively about damage prevention. Communities were eligible because of presidentially-declared disasters from 2011 to 2013, which included the flooding that occurred throughout Shelby County in April and May 2011 when the Mississippi River hit its second-highest level in recorded history.

The Shelby County Public Works Division, assisted by the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability, Shelby County Housing Department and the city of Memphis Engineer’s Office worked jointly to devise resiliency projects using the Mid-South Regional Greenprint plan as a basis.

The locations selected were all affected by that 2011 flooding and remained damaged in 2015. The proposal was selected last year as one of 40 communities to proceed to phase two. That’s when the three projects were selected that helped Shelby County win the grant along with 12 other communities.

“What we started looking at is what are innovative interventions to use natural environments to help protect us from flooding that could be proposed for the three areas,” said John Zeanah, Administrator of the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability. “In all three areas we look at how can we reconnect streams to flood plains and create new wetlands, but also how that can create new recreational amenities.”

All three areas will use proposed greenways to create more flood storage that also can serve as recreational space during the majority of time when it’s not under water.

The project will take place in phases over the next three years with completion in 2019.
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Read more articles by Lance Wiedower.

Lance is a veteran journalist with more than 16 years of experience in newsrooms in the Memphis area as a reporter and editor, including most recently as managing editor of The Daily News. He regularly contributes to The Daily News, including a biweekly travel column, The Daily Traveler.