By Jennifer Gray
Since 1995, when Hurricane Opal swept through our state — including Mountain Brook — flooding has been a severe and reoccurring problem along Watkins Brook. The brook is a tributary of Shades Creek and the portion that runs through Mountain Brook Village is of greatest concern.
Flooding in this area creates the potential of large amounts of property damage in the historic Village and the areas surrounding it. This area is home to many of Mountain Brook’s local businesses and is a source of the City’s tax base and revenue. Large amounts of property damages in this area could result in a financial blow to those businesses and the City along with the potential threats to individual safety to those in that area. Finding a solution to this problem has been a top priority of the City for some time.
After Hurricane Opal, the City of Mountain Brook was able to secure a FEMA grant to study the problem. Walter Schoel Engineering and Lehe Planning completed the initial study and identified ways to reduce the flooding in the Village, but the city had no way to fund the work.
Following Hurricane Ivan in 2004, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program set aside designated money for the state of Alabama due to the significant damage the state had from the storm. Mountain Brook put together a phased plan and applied for the funds. In April of 2006, the city was notified that it had been awarded the grant. The total cost of the project is projected to be $6.54 million. The FEMA grant will pay for $4.3 million to $4.9 million of the project. The project will reduce the estimated depth of the 100-year flood at the shopping center by three and a half feet. It is estimated that for every dollar spent, two dollars will be saved in property damage.
Three parts to the Project
There are three parts to this project, two of which are currently underway. The timing of these projects has been coordinated as to interfere with business and shopping in the Village as little as possible.
Regions Bank Culvert– replacing this culvert, which is grossly undersized is underway now, and is supposed to be finished by November 1. This should insure that the work does not interfere with the heavy holiday shopping season in the Village. The Morris Group will do this work.
Cahaba Road Diversion– underway already, this work will tear up portions of Cahaba Road and put a culvert down which will pick up water and divert it downstream. Most of the work is to be done before school begins so it will not interfere with Mountain Brook Elementary School traffic. Rast Construction will do this work.
Montevallo Road Bridge– The portion of the project will begin January 3, 2011. It involves replacing the bridge on Montevallo Road near Regions Bank. Traffic will be rerouted through the shopping center during construction. The work must be completed by March 23, 2011 so as not to interfere with spring shopping in the village. The Alabama Historical Commission also approved this portion of the project. The Morris Group will do this work.