By Gabrielle Lamplugh, student, Auburn University
Sitting in the living room of Pauline Marlow‘s home, adaptations are subtle but necessary. Linoleum floor has replaced once plush carpets; a rope in the backyard holds a hundred pound trampoline to the porch; and a bunker of tires divert water from the edge of the property.
Marlow has been living on the banks of the Clearfork River in Eagan, Tennessee since 1991. Soon after her arrival, the Clearfork River began living in her home.
“In November 1991 we had eight inches of flooding in our house,” Marlow said. “We had to pull up a hose into the living room to let it out.”
While flooding along the river has been an issue for many generations, the widening of the river do the bridge’s architecture and the deposit of sediments from mining projects results in the flooding of homes which would have remained untouched fifty or a hundred years ago.
“My aunt lived on the river bank, and we used to help her clean out her house after floods,” Marlow said, “But she lived right on the water.”
Marlow, who has been working with other Eagan residents to have the government replace the bridge, cites bureaucracy and limited funds as the biggest impediment to a bridge replacement.
“We’ve talked to people before–the county says it’s the state, and the state says they have no budget to fix the bridge,” Marlow said.
The only action the commissioner has taken is dumping gravel in Marlow’s yard without her permission, an unwelcome action.
When the Marlow’s house flooded in 1991 the only source of aid was the American Red Cross, which paid for the extensive repairs to the home that took months to complete.
“They won’t give us flood insurance because we are too close to the creek,” Marlow said.
With the bridge’s architecture causing the gradual loss of land, as much as two feet in twenty years in the case of Pauline’s Marlow’s neighbor Clarence, riverside residents are dealing with a difficult paradox. Residents live too close to the river to buy flood insurance, but the constant flooding caused by the bridge causes homes to creep ever closer to the shore due to erosion.
Prior to the current concrete bridge, an arm bridge provided transportation without contributing to erosion and flooding. Another arm bridge, placed higher above the creek bed, one that does did not disrupt water flow, would be another possible solution to the Eagan community’s problem.
“If they would do something with the bridge–build the bridge higher–it would help,” Marlow said.