Federal ARP Funds Help City Fix Flooding Problems

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
[email protected]
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Federal ARP Funds Help City Fix Flooding Problems

Posted: 08/30/2023
The City is committing more than $2 million in mostly federal funding to redesign or repair stormwater infrastructure in three flood-prone areas – with more construction money to follow once designs are finalized.

The American Rescue Plan funding also will correct erosion problems and improve water quality at Mary Vestal and Holston River parks and at Rock City Ballfield.

And additional ARP assistance will help the City better manage drainage and flooding issues at Chilhowee Park and low-lying areas near the park.

“We’re grateful for this ARP funding, which will help us to re-engineer and remedy seven trouble spots where flooding or erosion have been problematic for decades,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said.

“In West Knoxville, flooding at Bluegrass Lake and on Baum Drive has routinely closed streets and damaged private property. Likewise, any heavy rain is likely to close Cherry Street in East Knoxville.

“At Mary Vestal and Holston River parks and at Rock City Ballfield, eroded sediment has washed downstream, worsened water quality and harmed aquatic life. And we all know how challenging the drainage issues are at Chilhowee Park.”

At its Aug. 8 meeting, City Council approved the Mayor’s request that $1.5 million be directed to these four projects:

Bluegrass Lake

The largest of the seven projects, relieving flooding here at the western edge of the City is a collaboration with Knox County, which is taking the lead on the $9 million total investment. 

Currently, private property in both the city and Knox County are intermittently damaged by flooding, and 2 feet of standing water on Northshore Drive can close the road for days.

A dilapidated rock-hewn tunnel under Hunter Valley Lane and Pellissippi Parkway will be restored and enlarged. The City’s $1 million will go toward a new pump station. The upgrades – to be in place by spring 2025 – are aimed to minimize flooding and to reduce the impacts to First Utility District’s system.

Cherry Street

Within less than a year, designs will be finalized for replacing and relocating a dilapidated, corroded pipe that’s responsible for the flooding on North Cherry Street between Cecil Avenue and the railroad tracks. Installation of new infrastructure would follow. The $227,400 design work is being funded through ARP.

Baum and Erin drives

This $133,400 project will design drainage and stormwater improvements by July 2024, with construction to follow. Low slope roadside ditches are largely to blame for the flooding problems. The area being upgraded includes a stretch of Baum between Northshore Drive and Erin Drive, and also the western end of Erin Drive between Baum and a cul-de-sac.

Mary Vestal Park

A $106,800 ARP grant will fund a Goose Creek streambank stabilization design. The steep vertical banks currently allow significant erosion, and the sediment harms the creek’s water quality. Plantings and creation of a habitat buffer will follow on an 850-foot-long area, with designs being made for another 1,400 feet of streambank improvements as future funding allows.

Other water-quality projects supported by ARP funds:

Rock City Ballfield

On July 11, City Council had earlier approved using $148,800 in American Rescue Plan funds for design services to restore 850 feet of linear feet of Baker Creek at the City’s Rock City Ballfield property, at the intersection of East Moody and McClung avenues in South Knoxville. The stream, its water quality and its banks are hurt by erosion, invasive vegetation, pollutants and debris.

Once the design is completed, work to make the improvements will go out for bid next summer.

Chilhowee Park

City Council will be asked in September to approve a $210,900 drainage study for Chilhowee Park. The park’s Lake Ottosee frequently floods, due to a complicated network of sinkholes and underground caverns in the low-lying area surrounding Zoo Knoxville and Chilhowee Park. 

Holston River Park

Also in September, City Council will be asked to approve the Mayor’s proposal to use ARP funds for the design of a habitat-building streambed stabilization project at Holston River Park. The cost: $327,200.

“These are all big projects – issues that need to be addressed,” said David McGinley, the City’s Stormwater Engineering Chief. “We’re thankful to ARP, because collectively, these are too big and too expensive to be funded by the City alone.

“These federal grants give us the opportunity to get these big things done in a very short amount of time.”

Investing in stormwater infrastructure, meanwhile, is nothing new for the City of Knoxville.

Between 2013 and the COVID-19 pandemic, when priorities understandably pivoted, the City had invested nearly $9 million in flood-control infrastructure at four long-standing problem areas:

Cross Park Drive: Located near I-40 and Cedar Bluff Road in West Knoxville, the $3.7 million drainage system upgrade now handles a water flow of more than 280,000 gallons per minute.

Prosser Road: The $1.4 million drainage improvements reconstructed 1,600 linear feet of Prosser Road between Knoxville Zoo Drive and Magnolia Avenue, virtually eliminating flash-flood standing water that in the past had shut down Prosser for weeks at a time.

Westland Drive: About 1,000 linear feet were reconstructed on Westland Drive west of Northshore Drive. The $2.2 million project included reconstruction of the drainage system under four driveways and the installation of a 14-by-7 box culvert that replaced an aging bridge.

Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue: A $1.5 million stormwater drainage upgrade corrected periodic flooding between South Beaman Street and South Castle Street. The project also included new sidewalks.

And now, thanks to the 2023 federal ARP funding, the City is once again investing in resilience-building infrastructure, improving water quality and fixing Knoxville’s most flood-prone locations.