ATLANTA, GA – The neighborhood of Drew Valley in DeKalb County is comprised of approximately 950 homes. The area initially was developed in the 1950s and has seen steady growth over time. As is often the case, the continued increase in development also brought an increase in floods and repeated damage to a number of homes in the neighborhood.
Drew Valley is crossed by two streams: Poplar Creek and a tributary of North Fork Peachtree Creek, both of which run through the neighborhood and pass near a number of residences. Over the years, during periods of especially high rainfall or tropical storm activity, these waterways have overflowed at least nine times, pushing water into many of the nearby homes. While most of these floods were relatively local in scale, they were still responsible for considerable costs in repairs and lost property.
“Most of the houses that flooded were not in the floodplain,” said Katie Oehler, chairwoman of the Drew Valley Civic Association’s Zoning and Land Use Committee. “There were a lot of damages from these smaller floods that weren’t covered because most of the people who lived in these areas didn’t have flood insurance.”
On June 16 and 17, 2003, Drew Valley experienced the worst flooding in the neighborhood’s history. In what has been referred to as a “25-year flood,” steady rain over the two-day period inundated more than 50 homes in the neighborhood. Oehler’s home was submerged in 5 1/2 feet of water.
Following the 2003 flood, the Drew Valley Civic Association decided it was time to do something about the ongoing problem. At the request of the association, DeKalb County hired a local engineering firm to perform a detailed study of the neighborhood. The study included a hydrologic and hydraulic analysis of the local waterways, an assessment of the culverts in the area, a review of prior flood levels, and an examination of threatened homes. The results of the study showed that improving six of the neighborhood culverts, acquiring and demolishing 23 properties in the most threatened areas of the neighborhood, and installing a detention pond would offer the best solutions.
The project began with the acquisition and removal of five homes from the area identified as the ideal location for the detention pond. Construction then began on the detention pond, its outlet culvert, and an additional culvert the engineers felt was responsible for repeated high-water problems.
Unfortunately, before substantial progress could be made, Hurricane Ivan made landfall in September 2004, and created yet another flood situation for Drew Valley residents.
“The 2003 flood was the straw that ‘broke the camel’s back,’” said Oehler. “The 2004 flood was the log that fell on top of the camel.”