Nashville Water Chief Wades Back Into Debate Over Flood Protection For Downtown Versus Neighborhoods | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville Water Chief Wades Back Into Debate Over Flood Protection For Downtown Versus Neighborhoods

Oct 11, 2017

Nashville's water chief waded back into the debate over flood protection for downtown on Tuesday night. Metro Council members met to hear the proposal again, and many still want to know what's being done for flood-prone areas outside the urban core.

Scott Potter's philosophy is that trying to control rising creeks and streams is a losing game. So rather than help outlying neighborhoods protect themselves from floodwater, the city has invested in buying homes that are in the floodway and tearing them down.

"We recover the green space, and we don't find ourselves in the position of trying to spend more and more money chasing our tails," Potter told council members.

But some pointed out what could be seen as a double standard. After the widespread flooding in Houston this year, Potter has revived discussion about building a $100 million pumping system and flood wall around Nashville's Lower Broadway, which was under water in 2010.

"It's kind a contradiction because you're asking us to do one thing for downtown and the opposite for the rest of the city," council Fabian Bedne of Antioch said.

Those who have creeks notorious for flooding in their districts made similar points. But Potter said the difference is that the city can't move downtown off the banks of the Cumberland River.

The floodwall project was part of Mayor Megan Barry's construction budget, but council members pulled it.

"I don't think you made the case," council member Angie Henderson said Tuesday. "As to the specific engineering need for this floodwall, it seems this always starts from the assumption that we need this."

At times, Potter was exasperated as he took questions. Even those council members on board are asking how they should sell the idea to their constituents. Potter says he'd be happy to come out and make the pitch himself.