Two duplexes could be collapsing into Flat Branch Creek

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - From the street, two duplexes off Debuys road look fine. But the backyard reveals a growing problem along Flat Branch Creek.

Hubert Yarbrough worries it won't be long before his duplex and another will just fall into the creek.

"We have to do something pretty quick because the insurance guy will not pay for it if it falls into the canal and it won't be long," Yarbrough said.

The erosion has taken all but 20 feet of land behind Yarbrough's place. The duplex next door has just 15 feet of yard left.

Erosion along Flat Branch Creek has been a problem for years. In 2010, the city began a project to stop the erosion and protect the properties.

"We got a Natural Resources Grant for a million dollars and the idea was to help these homeowners shore up their property and prevent erosion," Gulfport Spokesman Ryan LaFontaine said.

LaFontaine told WLOX News the city needed landowners to sign easement agreements allowing the city to do the work. The project was a success until the project grinded to a halt because the man who owns the land refused to allow city workers on his property.

Hubert Yarbrough called the owner, Ernie Payne.

"I called him and he basically told me, 'good luck,'" said Yarbrough. "I said, 'Sir, my house is going to fall in.' He said, 'There's nothing I can do for you.'"

I called Ernie Payne to ask why he refused to allow the erosion repairs to be made on his land.

He told me, "The public will eventually come on my land and will dump trash."

Payne also said the duplex owners can built a bulk head to stop the erosion.

Yarbrough spent $8,000 doing just that, but the bulk head hasn't stopped the erosion.

"I put steel pipes down in and drove them 20 feet down into the ground and tried to back fill it so it wouldn't wash out, but it's sucking out from underneath and there's really nothing I can do about it," stated Yarbrough.

Gulfport could have gained access to Payne's property without his permission through eminent domain. But the legal process would have cost the city a half million dollars, according to council member Cara Pucheu.

LaFontaine said, "We realize that it is a situation, a serious situation. But what has happened is we had to stop work and now the federal government has since done away with this particular grant program. So essentially, these property owners are now left to fend for themselves."

Hubert Yarbrough said it looks like he's out of options, "These are duplexes and there's four families in here, probably fixing to be uprooted, very near future."

I will continue to do updates to see how long the duplexes can withstand the erosion before they collapse into Flat Branch Creek.  Hopefully, something can get done before four families will be left homeless.

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