Repetitive flooding angers homeowners

Published 2:35 pm Monday, October 22, 2007

Flooding on Woodglen Cove has been a problem since the old Wal-Mart and Delchamps development, now Resurrection Life Church, was built on what is now Memorial Boulevard, and as more and more developments comes to Picayune the problem could worsen, according to residents of the area.

Four homes on Woodglen Cove, 405, 407, 409 and 413, are listed in an undated Pearl River County Hazard Mitigation and Flood Protection plan as repetitive flood loss properties. Mayor Greg Mitchell estimates the plan was drawn up between 2001 and 2002, before Hurricane Katrina.

Jeff Hensiek’s unknowing father bought 407 Woodglen Cove in 1993.

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“He would have never bought something that he knew flooded,” Hensiek said.

After a flood in 1995, the home was turned over to Hensiek’s brother, who in turn gave it to Hensiek after a flood in 1996 cost his brother $15,000 in repairs.

During Hensiek’s ownership, Hurricane Katrina flooded it with about two feet of water, he said. Two years after Katrina, Hensiek’s home has yet to be repaired. He said he was recently approved for a $72,000 grant with the Mississippi Development Authority and expects the check in a few weeks. Then he plans to complete work on his home. Currently, he and his family live in a Federal Emergency Management Agency travel trailer in their yard.

Even though it floods regularly, Hensiek exuded pride in his home. He said it has plenty of room and is located in a good neighborhood.

“If this home was on a hill I’d never leave,” Hensiek said.

Neighbors and Hensiek agree the flooding on the street began after the development that previously housed Wal-Mart and Delchamps was built on Memorial Boulevard.

Now surrounding developments such as Arbor Gate apartments and the under-construction Grand Oaks apartments threaten to compound the problem. Hensiek said Arbor Gates sits higher than homes on Woodglen Cove. He expects Grand Oaks will sit higher than Arbor Gate.

“So it’s going to look like waterfalls going through there,” Hensiek said.

To address that problem, City Manager Ed Pinero Jr. said Grand Oak apartments was required to install detention ponds to hold and slowly dispose of storm water. These detention ponds are expected to ensure the development will not flood surrounding homes, he said. That storm water is to be directed to the Pearl River, Pinero said. Drainage from Woodglen Cove goes towards Hobolochitto Creek.

A drainage ditch behind the houses on Woodglen Cove is supposed to help move water from around the homes to the creek. Hensiek said its state of disrepair, with broken concrete and growing vegetation, hinders drainage.

“They expect this ditch to be the drainage for this neighborhood,” Hensiek said.

Pinero said some efforts to maintain the drainage system in the Woodglen Cove area have taken place, however that work was conducted north of the homes that flood. Pinero said the work included widening and deepening a portion of the drainage ditch north of Woodglen Cove to increase the water capacity and move water from Woodglen Cove toward the creek more quickly.

“We believe we have something better in place than what was there before,” Pinero said.

The vegetation in the drainage ditch behind Hensiek’s home should be removed sometime in November, Pinero said.

Recently Hensiek received a letter from the city that further sparked his distaste for his situation. The letter contained information on how to prepare for a flood and what materials and items should be on hand in case of a flood. He took his complaint to Tuesday’s city council meeting, stating he read the letter as implying no further action would be taken concerning the flooding.

“Their solution is put my water proof boots in a handy place,” Hensiek said.

Council members downplayed what Hensiek read into the letter during the meeting.

Marilyn Weston, who lives next door to Hensiek, also had her home flood for the first time in her 11 years there during Hurricane Katrina. There was a close call prior to the storm when water came up to the door but did not enter the house.

“The street always floods every time we get a good size rain,” Weston said.

However, Katrina sent about nine inches of water into her home, causing her home to need repairs. She had to replace the cabinets and the sheet rock halfway up the wall, which she said cost her some money since insurance and other assistance did not cover all of the cost.

“This is supposed to be a retirement community and they’re not taking care of their retirees, especially on this street,” Weston said about the city.

Hensiek said he has considered selling his home, but has not done so out of good conscience.

“How can you sell a home that floods to another family?” Hensiek said.

Since the storm, Weston said she has reason to believe her home is sinking. The rear patio is collecting water and the exterior brick of the home displays signs of cracking.

A city wide drainage project took place after Katrina. The U.S. Department of Agriculture used a National Resource Conservation Service Grant to clear ditches and other drainage areas, which lead to the Hobolochitto Creek, of vegetative debris left by the storm.

If the problem on Woodglen Cove continues, Pinero said the city will attempt to widen the drainage ditch again where easement is available. In addition, maintenance will continue on the drainage system and city flood plain manager Tammy Campbell will be asked to help come up with other ideas to address the problem, Pinero said.

“Additionally we will require subdivision developers to detain the water so it will not adversely affect the public,” Pinero said.