Hampton property owner says county work caused flooding

John Thompson • Jan 28, 2013 at 10:20 PM

HAMPTON — A small section of a mobile home park on Carl Smith Road sustained some of the worst damage from the four days of rain that fell in the region.

The rains turned Laurel Fork Creek from a pleasant mountain stream into a raging river that cut away at the bank so badly that a mobile home’s underpinning was washed away and the mobile home was left with several feet sticking over the river. A large tree that stood next to the mobile home has fallen into the river.

Unlike the other damage caused around the county by the storm, the damage done to the property of David Hampton was not a surprise. He predicted what would happen. Exactly a year ago, he told the Carter County Commission the mobile home would be undercut by the stream.

Hampton attended the January 2012 meeting to ask the county for assistance. He said the cause of the stream’s erosion of his river bank is caused by actions the county took after a flood in 1998.

During the 1998 flood, Hampton said the creek overflowed its bank and ran down Swimming Pool Road, causing damage to several properties.

To prevent it from happening again, Hampton said the county got a grant from the Army Corps of Engineers to take rock from the creek and build up the banks at low spots on the right bank about a quarter mile upstream. But Hampton said that just moved the problem to his own property. He said the rock wall, or berm, causes the water to flow with more power and velocity. The result is that it is now curving away from its old streambed, straight at Hampton’s property and then curving back to the old channel.

The first time the stream made a cut into Hampton’s property was in 2004, he said. “It took 30 feet of my land and did extensive damage to the property,” Hampton said.

Hampton said he went to see the county’s flood control director, Chris Schuettler, about the problem in 2004. He said Schuettler said he would try to get another grant from the Corps of Engineers to help him. Hampton said at that time he was unaware the county had constructed the berm. He learned about the berm in 2010 during a conversation with another resident.

As a result, Hampton filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court against the county. He said the county’s insurance company filed a motion to dismiss the suit because of the statute of limitations. He said Judge Thomas Seeley agreed with the insurance company and dismissed Hampton’s suit because of the expiration of the statute of limitations on the 2004 damage.

“That was a stupid judgment,” Hampton said. “The statute of limitations should begin when I learned about the berms, not something that happened five years earlier, when I didn’t know about them. How could I sue them then when I didn’t know?”

After having the lawsuit dismissed, Hampton approached the County Commission about the problem, but he said a motion to have the county seek a grant from the Corps of Engineers was defeated by a 12-11 vote.

Hampton said some have said the cuts the creek is making in his property is just the natural meanders of the stream, but Hampton disagrees.

“I am a registered surveyor in four states,” Hampton said. “I have designed drainage plans for many subdivisions. I was a cofounder of Tysinger, Hampton and Partners (engineering firm). I feel I know a little about what water will do.”

Hampton said he was willing to make a bet with the county.

I would like for the county to hire a registered professional engineer to do a survey of the creek. If he finds the berms didn’t cause my problem, I will pay for the engineer and shut up. But if he says I am right, then the county can pay him and talk as much as I can.”

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