Columbus mayor wants federal funds to alleviate flooding problem

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Mayor Keith Gaskin said flooding issues in Columbus go back more than a half-century.

Heavy rains have to go somewhere and with aging, insufficient drainage infrastructure, and many low-lying areas that “somewhere” is often in people’s yards and homes.

The mayor was adamant about shedding light on one homeowner who was not sharing her identity. However, she was struggling to stay dry indoors.

The solution, according to the mayor, was digging into the budget of both the city and the federal government.

Finding street parking on Fifth Avenue in Columbus after heavy rainfall was nearly impossible.

Ankle-high water was common for residents in this neighborhood.

“I have a grandchild that goes to school every day and she has to walk from this house here to the corner and that stop sign. Something needs to be done about this flood,” said a Fifth Avenue resident who requested to remain anonymous.

Gaskin said after listening to her comments “Her frustrations are understandable. In 2024, children shouldn’t be walking in conditions like that to get into a school bus.”

This anonymous Columbus resident has witnessed street flooding in her neighborhood for almost two decades, but water rising into her home creates a new set of problems.

Gaskin said the city’s low-income residents have the greatest chance of being impacted by rising water.

“This is because of our poor infrastructure. It’s difficult for communities our size to find the funding that is needed to try and alleviate these problems for our citizens,” said Gaskin.

While touring her home, the resident told WCBI that she filled about two buckets with water in an attempt to reduce her indoor flooding.

Gaskin insisted that a majority of American Rescue Plan Act funds should flow in the direction of watershed flooding projects.

“We were able to pull about $3 million from the city and we got about $450,000 from the county. We’re trying to leverage this money at the federal level too, to take care of these issues. Over 40% of the city is in a flood zone,” said Gaskin.

The state also matched a portion of Columbus’ ARPA funds but that’s just a drop in the bucket.

Tackling city-wide flooding issues will require a comprehensive plan and lobbying for more federal funding, according to Gaskin.

“There is a lot of infrastructure funding out there that we can potentially get. But it’s important that we work together when we go after those funds. There’s a lot of talk about a lot of different issues going on in the city and the county that we need to spend on and take care of but the quality of life for our citizens, especially our most vulnerable, to me, is inexcusable that we don’t focus on this,” said Gaskin.

It was reported that Mississippi University for Women, which sits right across the street from Fifth Avenue South, is planning to use some of its ARPA funds to address flooding as well.

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