During the last hard rain this spring, homes along Perkins and Ridge roads were plagued with stubborn water.
After years of battling flooding, Ray Berry”s childhood home on Ridge Road gave in: Water forced its way into the house. Berry, 55, packed up his things and moved into an RV next to it.
It”s not a new problem. Families in the area, which is in a flood plain, have been dealing with flooding for years.
When it rains, “I can”t wash clothes for three or four days,” said Cyndi Ferguson, who lives on Perkins Road. Her septic tank, though large, can”t handle the excess of water.
“When it rains real bad, you can”t see to (drive) through there, and when you get out, you get stuck,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson”s 19-year-old grandson, Josh, learned that the hard way.
“I couldn”t help it,” he said, shaking his head.
“It just doesn”t drain off good,” said his brother, Chris, 20.
Ferguson has lived there for 21 years, sometimes making her way through ankle-deep water in her own yard. And it can take 24-48 hours for the water to retreat. The house”s wiring is buried within CVB pipe, a measure the family took after upgrading to a larger home on the same property.
“I can”t even have a storm cellar put out here, because they can”t put it in the ground,” she said.
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors has tried over the years to alleviate the problem. The most recent plan is to dig a ditch running east and west, midway between South Perkins and Spivey roads. A handful of 11 property owners whose land the plan involves, have refused to sign agreements holding the county and the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District at no fault.
“I”d love to have a ditch dug. I”d love to solve the problem … I”d love to see it done, but people won”t sign off on it,” said Frank Ferguson, county supervisor for the area.
And there are other complications.
“There”s a lot of opposition from the Corp of Engineers to disturb the wetlands or disturb the environment, and that makes it real difficult to drain a flood plain,” said Board of Supervisors engineer Bob Calvert.
A complete solution to the problem would cost several million dollars, said Calvert, and is beyond the scope of the supervisors or the Water Management District. Lowndes County cannot do work on private property. Though the Water Management District can, with owner permission, it could not take on a project of that magnitude.
“The area just doesn”t drain very well,” Calvert said. “Lowndes County is very unfortunate. It has a lot of land like that, and people have built in it.”
Cleaning a private tributary in the area, to help with flooding, also was met with opposition.
Steve Wallace, executive director of the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District, said running into road blocks with property owners is not unusual.
“We”re always, in all our 12 counties, waiting on easements,” Wallace said.
The Water Management District works “at the pleasure of the counties,” responding to requests for help.
Tommy Southerland, who served for eight years as District 2 supervisor before Frank Ferguson was elected to the board. Relieving flooding in the area was a constant process, he said — keeping ditches clean, clearing culverts.
“That”s all flat land, and people built those houses in flatlands and they built it in wetlands, and then after they”ve built it, then they want you to make the water go away,” Southerland said. “I know it”s an inconvenience for the people there. That”s a big problem in that area.”
A project there was one of two projects in limbo when Southerland left office, both stalled by property owners who refused to agree to them.
“You”ve got to get permission, and I don”t believe some of those property owners would do that,” he recalled.
When Frank Ferguson came on board, he started anew, trying to get signatures from property owners. At least two refused to sign.
“I feel sorry for (Berry). He lives in a low area,” he said. “But once they won”t sign, the project is dead. You can”t do anything.”
Since then, he has asked Berry to appeal to his neighbors to change their minds. Berry, in hopes of using “at least part” of his 6 1/2 acres of land isn”t giving up. He already has several verbal agreements, to allow the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District to cut through their land.
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