Level Up: Engineering team proposes raising levee at Navy base for city’s Resilience Project

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By Bill Short

Millington’s engineering team has proposed raising the levee at Naval Support Activity Mid-South for construction of Area 3 of the city’s Resilience Project.

Tom Needham, engineering consultant for the city, told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its May 10 meeting that two things happened during the previous week that provided an opportunity to “do something different.”

While noting that Shelby County received two bids for construction of Area 3, he said one was for $24.8 million and the other for $69 million.

He also said the proposed design for Area 3 has the potential to damage the “bottomland hardwood timbers” that are in the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s “mitigation for wetlands.”

He noted that TDOT would have to be given approximately $80 million worth of “assurance” that the hardwoods would be replaced if they died.

“So, what do you do now?” Needham asked rhetorically.

He said that, when his team realized it could not go “down” or “out,” it proposed going “up.” He noted that raising the levee around the Navy base to prevent the “design flood” would have “very little” risk of flooding the additional area.

Citing the planned raising of the levee in Area 1 of the Resilience Project, he said it will protect the city against the design flood from Highway 51 to the Canadian National Railroad track.

While noting that his team has prepared a design for raising that levee, Needham said the city was expected to advertise for bids on its construction “in about a month.”

Although bids were received for Area 1 and a contract was awarded, he said the city does not yet have a permit to begin construction.

Because that would normally require an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit, Needham said he would tell David Salyers, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, that the city plans to “modify” the ARAP.

He said he had already asked Salyers to give the city a “general” permit to construct Area 1. And he noted that City Manager Ed Haley has “convinced” the commissioner that he needs to visit Millington on May 27 to talk with the engineering team.

Needham said the team’s “goal” is that Salyers will not leave the city without approving a general permit.

“I wanted you to know that we are still trying to get something done,” he told the board members. “I’m not going to give up. That’s just not in my nature.”

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development advertised grant opportunities through its National Disaster Resilience Competition.

Shelby County was one of 67 communities in the nation eligible to apply for the grant and one of 40 that qualified to proceed to the review stages of that opportunity.

In January 2016, the county was notified that it would receive $60 million. The following month, Millington was informed that it would receive $29 million of that grant.

Both the county and the city have contributed the required local matching funds.

At its March 2020 meeting, the Millington Planning Commission approved the Site Plan and Final Plat for the Big Creek, Shelby County National Disaster Resilience Project. 

The Site Plan is divided into three areas:

Area 1, which extends from Highway 51 to Raleigh-Millington Road, will be maintained by the city. It is expected to have an amphitheater, stage, restroom building, soccer fields, parking and a disc golf course.

Area 2, which extends from Raleigh-Millington to Singleton Parkway, will be more of a natural recreation area, with wetlands and wildlife observation. It was originally envisioned to include trails, a shelter and a boardwalk in the environmentally sensitive area.

Area 3, extending from Singleton to Sledge Road, will include wetlands and trails and is the primary flood control component of the project.

Needham said the city already has $6 million “under contract” for Area 1, which is basically the “civil work.” He noted that it will take approximately $3 million to finish that.

Because Area 2 will be more like an “environmental study area,” Needham said the city will not be able to “do much there, if anything.” If there is some money left for that area, he said a trail will be constructed.

He also noted that raising the levee in Area 3 would cost “a little less” than the money that was allocated for that area.