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Flood-Prone Area in Southwest Memphis to Mitigate Risks with Restoration Project

A site plan for the South Cypress Creek flood mitigation project.
Shelby County Mayor's Office
A site plan for South Cypress Creek

The Mississippi River reached historic highs in 2011, sending water overflowing its banks and that of its connecting waterways. The resulting widespread flooding inundated geographically vulnerable neighborhoods across Shelby County including the one in southwest Memphis surrounding Alonzo Weaver Park near South Cypress Creek.

On Monday officials gathered at the park – once submerged in water – to break ground on a project designed to protect the area from future flooding events.

“Our goal through this program was to create nature-based solutions to address flood water so the water has somewhere to go that doesn’t infiltrate our built environment again,” says John Zeanah, the head of the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development.

The roughly $15 million project, which includes the repurposing of now vacant lots, will restore connections between the stream and the floodplain and create wetlands to store water. The green infrastructure will also expand park space for recreation.

“In the times when we don’t need flood assistance, these will be amenities for the community,” Zeanah says.

Funding for the South Cypress Creek restoration plan is part of a larger $60 million grant from the federal government to help the county adapt to flooding risks and draft a regional resiliency plan.

As climate change creates unpredictable swings in weather, local officials say there’s a need to prepare.

“We will have a 2011 again,” Zeanah says. “We don’t know where it will be.”

Other areas with ongoing flood mitigation projects using the federal funding include along the Wolf River in North Memphis and Big Creek in Millington.

Zeanah says that the South Cypress Creek restoration is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

Katie is a part-time WKNO contributor. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org