BUCKHANNON – Heavy rains have led to flooding around Buckhannon several times this summer, prompting one group of local residents to approach city council with concerns over the condition of a creek that runs behind several homes in the western part of the city.
Jawbone Run originates in the hills behind Lincoln Way before meandering down Boggess Street, cutting between Myrna and Kepner streets, turning down Gum Street and again crossing Boggess and Lincoln streets before heading to the triangle and Jawbone Park.
Many of those areas are prone to flooding, but several events this summer – including one particularly heavy downpour in June – spurred residents along Myrna, Gum and Boggess streets to attend the Buckhannon City Council meeting Thursday evening to request the city’s help in reducing the damage to property along the creek.
“As council is aware, we have had quite a bit of rain, and as a result the flooding has been a problem in our yards and in our streets, and one resident has had their home flooded four times,” Bonnie Crum told council.
The properties are out of the flood zone, she added.
“What happens down at Speedway and the triangle area [is] influenced by what happens up in our area,” she noted, referencing one of Buckhannon’s most notorious flood zones. “It has just gotten more and more and more, and we’ve lost property from this.”
Sue Boring, a longtime resident, said during previous storms, the creek would rise to the top and maybe a few feet into her yard.
“Now, this summer, it floods the street in front of me, Myrna Street,” Boring said. “I’ve been there 17-and-a-half years, and this is the worst that it’s been. The storms are going to get more frequent, and they’re going to get stronger, because of the climate.”
Rose Whitehair lives on the corner of Gum and Boggess streets.
“The water has never come over the banks like it has the last few times,” she told council. “We have an attached building on the back of our house. It went into that building … Something has got to be done.”
Director of Public Works Jerry Arnold and City Engineer Jay Hollen recently walked the length of the creek from Larchmont Lane to Speedway to examine the condition of the stream, even crawling through the culverts along the route to check for obstructions.
“I was really hoping we’d find a blockage in a culvert that was causing the flooding in that area, but we didn’t,” Arnold said. “The culverts were all clean.”
“We did find issues with maintenance … that’s problem that we’ve always had with Jawbone,” Arnold said. “It’s kind of like the Buckhannon River. If we don’t have right-of-way access to it, we can’t get equipment in to maintain it… There are pieces of property on Jawbone that there is absolutely no way you can get a piece equipment into the creek to clean the banks up, whether it’s the City of Buckhannon or the residents that live there.”
“We found four locations of debris fields, where something has caused debris to congregate, to settle, and could cause flooding issues,” Hollen said.
Hollen said he believes the main culprit is a debris field along a piece of property owned by a trust in Tampa, Florida.
“There is lots of evidence of sedimentation, soil deposits and debris, and I need to stress that the property owners – you must maintain your stream,” Hollen said.
Arnold pointed to the amount of development over the years in the Boggess and Lincoln street areas and said council will ultimately need to come up with a plan to deal with the additional stormwater created by new construction around the city.
He said the first step toward addressing the current issue is a hydrology study to assess the amount of water actually moving through Jawbone Run.
“Then we can come back and say to the property owners and city council, ‘Here’s what we think needs to happen,’” Arnold said. “From that, we can establish where the responsibility is and who’s going to do what.”
Residents had also asked about the possibility of the city using American Rescue Plan Act funds, but mayor Robbie Skinner noted that money is restricted to existing infrastructure projects, not new ones, and can’t fund projects on private property.