Knoxville’s ‘Grand Canyon’ undergoing major overhaul to improve water quality throughout city

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) When you hear the words Grand Canyon, you likely do not think of West Knoxville. But on Wellington Drive, off Kingston Pike, you will see why some are calling a tributary to the Fourth Creek “Knoxville’s Grand Canyon”.

Chris Howley, Knoxville’s Engineer and Planning Chief, explained the tributary is part of a larger watershed, which is responsible for collecting rain and cutting down on flooding.

He explained this particular portion of the watershed has seen a lot of growth over the last 100 years, which came with a lot of parking lots. Those “impervious” lots and buildings have brought more rain to the creek, causing erosion, making it wider and deeper.

A blog by the City of Knoxville says the massive hole is 130 foot wide, with 30-foot tall banks.

The City of Knoxville is partnering with Summit Medical Group, contributing crews and $200,000 toward a $820,000 total stabilizing project. Howley saying, the goal of the project is to prevent more erosion.

In layman’s terms, crews will bring the bottom up to avoid drop off where water will spill over, create a waterfall, churn up dirt and create more erosion. Through rock and turf reinforcement mat, they hope to dissipate fast flowing water and ultimately stop erosion.

While you see erosion near Summit Medical, as their building’s foundation is visible from the opposite side of the tributary, the stabilizing efforts could also improve conditions downstream.

Howley explaining, that many areas impacted by the dirt are breaking off Kingston Pike if you look at bridges crossing the creek. He says many of those areas are full of dirt and without improvements to the problematic area in West Knoxville, cleaning out those other areas would be “ineffectual”.

“I’ve been with the city about 22 years and in the time I’ve been here, the depth of the creek has probably increased more than my height, you know, we’ve probably lost six feet or more of dirt and that all washes down stream and has impact on the stream and sometimes can have impact on the aquatic life,” Howly said. “Less sediment will mean more than more aesthetic water downstream, and there is a water quality benefit that would impact aquatic life.”

Crews hope to complete their work by Fall 2020.

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