Pecan Creek flood plan near completion; Gainesville residents returning to area

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GAINESVILLE, TX -- It's been more than 15 years since the city of Gainesville began work on the Pecan Creek Flood Damage Reduction Plan. The area has been known to flood--rising waters even killed three people in the city in 2007. Now, work on the channel is complete, all roadways are finally opened and some residents who'd moved for their own safety are coming back.

"I remember in 1981 we had a flood, and in the early 90's the creek also came over it's banks," Nicole Dempsey said.

Gainesville resident Nicole Dempsey says it's never been a matter of if Pecan Creek will flood, but when. Floods that have caused major damage -- even death.

Plans to widen this channel were put in place in 2000. But the flood reduction plan was pushed forward when a woman and two children were killed in a record flood back in 2007.

"I remember the water just rising in the back yard and we just kept watching it and watching it," Dempsey recalled.

Nicole Dempsey's family was one of several evacuated during the 2007 flood. Shortly after that, she moved out of the area, because she felt it was too dangerous.

"I've seen evidence that they think that was between a 1,200 and 2,200 year flood. So, it's very unlikely that a flood of that magnitude will happen again," Barry Sullivan said.

City manager Barry Sullivan says after the 2007 flood they secured funding from the Army Corps of Engineers for half of the $14 million project.

Since 2009, five bridges have been replaced and Sullivan says the 7,000 foot long channel has been completely redesigned to carry up to 350 percent more water.

"The channel was approximately 60 to 70 feet wide. And with the improvements to the channel it basically doubled the width to about a 120 to 125 feet in width," public services director Ron Sellman said.

"It's not saying we won't flood again. It's saying that the damage from floods over the years will be reduced to a significant amount," Sullivan said.

Dempsey recently moved back to the Pecan Creek area and says she feels safe now that the project is finished.

"I think it puts myself and my husband at ease. And everyone that lives in this area," she said.

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