It's flood storage! It's a greenspace! As climate change causes more severe weather, construction of the first flood control project in Chapel Hill history will begin in May 2020.
The Elliott Road Flood Storage Project - located between Eastgate Crossing Shopping Center and South Elliott Road - will help manage flooding for most storm events. During heavy rainfalls, this project will slow down the flow of water by holding more of it in place.
By regrading approximately 4 acres of the existing Booker Creek floodplain, the project will improve water flow and reduce the depth, duration, and frequency of flooding in the floodprone area near Eastgate Crossing and East Franklin Street.
In addition to providing stormwater benefits, the project will provide a large passive recreation space for the BlueHill District with native stream-side plants. Known as the Booker Creek Basin Park, this recreation space will include public art and a network of walking trails with an overlook to enhance the greenspace next to Booker Creek.
In 2015, the Stormwater Division of the Public Works Department began to study watersheds within Town limits. The goal of these studies is to recommend and prioritize projects that will control existing flooding, stabilize streams, and improve overall water quality.
The Booker Creek Watershed has a drainage area of approximately 6.3 square miles and includes 5 subwatersheds:
Lower Booker Creek,
Cedar Fork, and
The Lower Booker Creek Subwatershed Study identified $22 million in needed capital projects to improve flooding and water quality. The Council approved using the 2015 Stormwater bonds of $5.9 million for the top priority projects identified in the report. The top projects identified are:
Elliott Road Flood Storage,
Red Bud Flood Storage,
Booker Creek Road Pipe System,
Honeysuckle Road Culvert, and
Piney Mountain Road Flood Storage.
Also called the Booker Creek Basin Park, the Elliott Road Flood Storage Project on Booker Creek will help manage flooding for most storm events. During heavy rainfalls, this project will slow down the flow of water by holding more of it in place. There will also be some park amenities, including a stream overlook, public art, and paved trails.
Virtual Groundbreaking Ceremony
While in-person events are on hold, the Town held a virtual groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the Booker Creek Basin Park on May 15 at 10 AM. The stream includes messages from Mayor Pam Hemminger, Stormwater Advisory Board Chair Pamela Schultz, artist Holly Felice, and Town staff.
The project site is between Eastgate Crossing Shopping Center and South Elliott Road. If you're on South Elliott Road, you can see part the area from the bridge that crosses Booker Creek. The map below shows many familiar landmarks that surround the project site.
2. How does the COVID-19 pandemic impact construction?
The Town is still doing construction projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contractors are expected to adhere to CDC guidance during construction.
3. What will the green space look like when construction is complete?
You will see Booker Creek and new native plants from the overlook and a network of paths constructed as part of the project. The plants will be small at first, but after several years the space will look and feel like other parks around Chapel Hill.
4. What will the site look like during construction?
In order to provide the needed flood storage capacity, we need to lower the existing slope in much of the project site’s existing floodplain. Many of the existing trees on either side of the creek will need to be removed.
Erosion control measures will be in place to help protect Booker Creek and, further downstream, Jordan Lake from the loose soil caused by construction You will also see heavy equipment on the site for several months.
5. The Lower Booker Creek Subwatershed Study identified several other projects. Why is the Town starting with this one in particular?
6. The flood storage component of the Green Space project was planned to be larger before the Fordham Boulevard Apartments were proposed. Does this significantly change the project’s value to the Town as a flood mitigation tool?
The revised design of the flood storage component of the project accounts for the Apartments project and provides similar benefits to the original design, including a substantial reduction in flood levels for most storms. The revised design includes 80% of the surface area of the original project and provides 80-90% of the benefit of the original design, depending on the size of the flood event, after accounting for the possible impact of the Apartments project.