MACON, Ga. — The Macon Water Authority is taking a step forward in fixing flooding problems in south Bibb County.
They presented possible solutions to homeowners in and around Nowell Estates at a meeting Thursday evening. The catch: they'll have to acquire 11 easements and two properties to make it all work. The water authority says it's much needed, and many homeowners agree.
Drive down Francis Drive in Nowell Estates after it rains, and you'll see standing water all the way down the street. Archie Welch, who lives in the neighborhood, says it's gone up to his knees before. Even so, he loves the area.
"Quiet and peaceful neighborhood, and good neighbors. Just fantastic to be out here," he said.
When Welch retired from Robins Air Force Base in the 1990s, a quiet neighborhood, close to nature, was a must-have.
"Enjoy watching the deer. About 15 back here in these woods," he said.
What wasn't a must-have was flooding that sometimes turns his yard into waterfront property.
"We've had water that's knee-deep right here around these trees," he recalled. "Completely all the way to the woods. No dirt, it's all just completely flooded."
Behind Welch's house, you'll find a small stream the Macon Water Authority plans to acquire as an easement. That's a piece of land the authority can legally maintain on or near someone's property.
"After so many years of people being frustrated and flooded and all the headaches that go with that, we finally have a plan," explained Macon-Bibb Commissioner Bill Howell, who serves on the Macon Water Authority board.
It's a plan to improve the drainage ditches, build new ones, and direct them into two new retention ponds. If all goes well, those ponds will go right behind Welch's house. He's all for the plan. Welch just hopes it works.
"I think [it] will work sufficient, if we can get the water to the pond," Welch said.
The water authority says it won't be an easy process. They'll be fighting the current for a bit longer, one stroke forward at a time.
All 11 property owners need to OK the easements, and another two have to sell some property for the plan to work. After that, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to sign off on the blueprints. They're involved because of wetlands in the area. If the Army Corps doesn't approve it, they'll have to figure something else out.
Michel Wanna with the water authority says the work in Nowell Estates alone will cost them $2.3 million. In total, they estimate it will cost $60 million to fix problems just in south Bibb. County-wide fixes could span upwards of $300 to $500 million. Wanna says they'll do it bit-by-bit.