Levee restoration work will protect homes in north Gulfport

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Flooding concerns in north Gulfport may be over.  Gulfport's administration hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for a $672,000 levee restoration project.  The city is confident that by repairing the levee that circles Forest Heights, Turkey Creek will stay away from the subdivision.

It can be so pristine.  But when a storm blows in, Turkey Creek can become a nightmare.

"Too much disaster," was the phrase councilwoman Ella Holmes Hines used to describe the mess Turkey Creek can cause.

The ward three representative has seen too many instances when the seemingly peaceful north Gulfport waterway flooded the 200 homes in neighboring Forest Heights.

"We always had to do the sandbags, and try to make sure those who were sick could get to higher ground.  Take the cars to higher ground.  So it was a process," she said.  "And now, this process will be over."

It will be over because of people like Mary Thigpen Spinks.  Because of her resiliency, and her perseverance, she got the city's attention.  And the city realized there was a way to stop the flooding.

So, Gulfport held a groundbreaking ceremony on the that runs between Forest Heights and Turkey Creek.  Over the next six months, a levee restoration project will insulate the subdivision from Turkey Creek flood waters.  "That's a miracle for us, because we've been fighting so long," Thigpen Spinks said.

Mayor Brent Warr called the levee project "the right thing to do."

So how do you protect a community like Forest Heights from future floods?  In this case, you restore the levee that surrounds the subdivision.  The dirt levee will be raised to the same height as Ohio Avenue.  And Ohio is about to be raised another two-and-a-half feet.  Building up the road and the levee to 16.5 feet will recreate the original Turkey Creek levee that was first built around the community in 1968.

Scott Burge is the lead engineer on the restoration project.  He said during big storms Turkey Creek will come out of its banks, "But not in the Forest Heights subdivision is what the goal is."

Holmes Hines considers the project extremely significant for the 200 homeowners in Forest Heights.  "This is going to make a great difference in the lives of these residents," she said.

Mayor Warr pointed out that by removing the threat of floods, the value of Forest Heights homes will go up.  "They have an appreciating asset rather than something that, had this levee not been raised, would become within a very short amount of time, certainly within this generation, rental property," he said.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is paying for the levee restoration work.

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