By Lee Roberts
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Equipped with ceremonial golden shovels, a select group of officials broke ground here, Feb. 7, 2012 on the Beaver Creek Flood Risk Reduction Project.
In partnership with the cities of Bristol, Va., and Bristol, Tenn., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is moving forward with phase one of four phases that removes an existing box culvert in Beaver Creek, slopes the creek banks, creates a plaza area, installs a parking lot, and provides for landscaping and lighting.
Lt. Col. James A. DeLapp, Nashville District commander and district engineer, attended the groundbreaking and hailed the behind the scenes work accomplished in the last decade to bring this day into fruition.
DeLapp noted that in 2001, Bristol, Tenn., entered into an agreement with the Corps on behalf of both cities to conduct a feasibility study, which produced a detailed project report and environmental assessment in 2004. It provided options and established a course of action and funding options. In September 2011, the Corps awarded a $736,536 contract to Aspen Construction of Hackensack, Minn., to begin construction in phase one.
"It was a long time in the making, but we're happy to be here," DeLapp said. "I know this project is obviously important to the community, and important to us. This project does a lot to help prevent flood damage."
With downtown Bristol on the mend, city officials stressed during the ceremony just how important this project is to the local economy and safety of its citizens.
Bristol, Tenn., Mayor David Shumaker said the project process is exhaustive but worth the wait for both cities. "This is huge. We've got such a vibrant downtown now. Everybody's worked so hard… both cities… the private sector has done so much to bring our downtown back. We want to make sure it's protected now," he said.
The project site is literally only yards away from State Street that divides the city in half. Bristol, Va., Mayor Edward K. Harlow said he remembers the impact of flooding caused when debris would plug up the culverts, the ones that are now slated for removal from Beaver Creek.
"Water does flow downhill. When it gets over here and it starts backing up, we all know it's going to back up into Virginia just as well as Tennessee," Harlow said. "It makes it just as important to us… flooding is a very scary thing and also a very expensive thing. So any money we spend on this project is money well spent, and money saved if we ever have a flood."
Harlow said the project doesn't mean the city will never be flooded, but the project is a preventative measure to reduce the risk of greater flood damage should flooding occur in the future.
Congressional staff members were in attendance representing Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee District 1 Rep. Phil Roe, Virginia Sen. Marc Warner, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and Virginia District 9 Rep. Morgan Griffith. Aspen Contracting Owner Brad Baird and Safety Manager Mark Lannon were also present.
The Corps expects to award the second phase of the project in the fall of 2012 that provides modifications to the Beaver Creek Dam outlet.
Phase three will widen the Beaver Creek channel near 6th Street. Phase four will provide improvements and bridge modifications near 8th Street.
he public can obtain project news, information and updates by following the Nashville District on Facebook.