Critical Issues Affecting the Ocmulgee Old Fields

see more maps and Major Flooding beside the Ocmulgee River in Bibb County - Macon Levee here 

Ocmulgee River Flood Patterns
Prior to Levees 1940-1970
Next map will show addition of i-16 4th Map will show 1994 flood upstream homes and businesses

5th map can show effect of 1-new intersection, 2-new businesses behind levee, 3-levee raised 4 feet -> effects

Letter to the Macon Telegraph - posted 3-17-02

Ten years ago the Ocmulgee River flooded some portions of Macon's water treatment plant. Visitors to our 1992 Cherry Blossom Festival were told that Macon's water was not safe to drink.

I learned from that 1992 flood. I learned that clean water is precious. And I learned that Macon is susceptible to expensive flooding due to poorly designed developments, roads, bridges and levees based on inadequate modeling of the Ocmulgee River during floodstages. I began to actively educate people about any projects that would make Macon even more prone to flooding. Such projects at the time included 1-raising the Macon Levee and 2- extending Eisenhower Parkway into the swampland which drains Macon.

People pushing for those two projects have told me this: "Raise the levee and it will never break in our lifetime. Use the land behind the levee for prime development next to downtown. Use Eisenhower Extension to gain access to this land. Build a new intersection with i16 in the floodplane right beside the river. Let our children figure out how to deal with flooding should it ever occur". I call these ideas the "Levee Scam." I wrote letters to expose this incredibly foolish scheme.

Two years later, in July 1994, the water plant was completely flooded and disabled for 3 weeks. The Macon Levee failed. Businesses and homes along Riverside Drive and elsewhere were lost. Supporters of the Eisenhower Parkway Extension and Levee Scam retreated for awhile and plotted new strategies. Lately these people have been actively seeking public money again to fund their risky business. Low water and the current drought has fueled their delusion of taming the Ocmulgee River.

Anyone who still supports building an extension of Eisenhower Parkway into and through the Ocmulgee Floodway just south of downtown Macon is either ignorant of hydrodynamics and history or they are selfish and careless gamblers hoping to cash in on short term profits before the next big flood forewarns their folly again.

Governor Barnes and other leaders who continue to pay lip service to this scheme are not worthy of re-election. Macon needs to move ahead with better plans for a better future.

Lindsay D. Holliday

1997 letter to the Macon Telegraph:


Your actions are inconsistent. As I write,I am looking at two contradictory messages you have published. On my right side is a 5-15-97 full page add "The People of Grand Forks Need Our Help".  You donated this add to Red Cross/ United Way requesting money to help the victims of flooding in Grand Forks, North Dakota.   On my left is your 5-22-97 editorial "Need consensus to speed up Fall Line Freeway," which endorses the construction of an Eisenhower Parkway Extension through the Ocmulgee swamp. Are not you aware this road includes a 100 acres interchange at I-16 built up on a dike in the floodway?  This route which you continue to promote would increase the likelihood, the frequency and the severity of flooding the citizens of Macon.

Have we all forgotten the floods of 92 and 94?  In 94 I worked harder than I ever have during several weeks without safe tap water. And still I lost thousands of dollars due to lost productivity at my dental practice. All of my misery and the suffering of others who lost their water was due to one solitary preventable act: Human construction in the Ocmulgee's foodplain.   Can't we all learn from past mistakes?

The engineers who designed the Old Water Works, I-16 and the Macon Levee failed miserably to predict the demands of the Ocmulgee River.  Some Bibb county leaders are acting to repeat and to compound these past mistakes.  They think that 4 more feet of dirt on our  levee will control the Ocmulgee River.  [This reminds me of the charactors in Jurrasic Park who thought they could control the Dinosaurs.  The difference here is that the Ocmulgee is real.  Our river has already killed more people and  destroyed more property than both fictional movies combined.]

The river's requirements will continue to increase as humans continue to strip the uplands of forests which slow and absorb rainwater runoff.

It is possible to build amphibious utilities along and across the river which actually facilitate water flow (by concurrently widening the channel). The route you endorsed does not meet these requirements. However, the two routes described in a 12-28-96 letter do respect these natural laws and they will not worsen flooding. Additionally, these two routes: (1) business and (2) bypass are much cheaper and quicker to build. Interested readers may find that letter and a comprehensive rebuttal of the EPE [Alternative route A1] route at:

Internet access is available at the Washington Memorial Library.

River boundaries ebb and flow. Water will finds its own way. Poorly designed bridges, levees and roads can create rigid constrictions around (occasionally powerful) waterways which forgive not our human frailties.

Some of the great floods of the Ocmulgee in the 19th Century:
1841 - "The Harrison Freshet"
1876 - "The Centennial Freshet"
1881 - "The Great Flood of '81"

 Stephen [] Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 

Subject: Ocmulgee River 1881 Flood

File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by: Don Bankston March 15, 2004, 11:03 am

Middle Ga. Argus - Week of March 24, 1881

Never in the history of Macon has the Ocmulgee raged and boiled with such fury on yesterday.  Its natural current was turned into a flood that swept by the city with the force of a deluge.  The water flowed in angry torrent that seemed determined to sweep away everything before it.  Houses, cows, horses and other animals dashed by on the stormy boson of the Ocmulgee like so many feathers.

On Thursday, the 17th, the Ocmulgee River at this point rose near to the high watermark of the Harrison freshet of March, 1841, and on the day following it was above that memorable mark and reached within an inch and a half of the great centennial freshet of April 1876.  On Thursday night the rise continued very heavily along the three tributary streams that from the river, which so increased the volume of water that it rose above the highest mark ever recorded by our most ancient and honorable human aquatics, the water having risen three inches above the centennial and eight inches above the Harrison mark.

Friday night the clouds poured a perfect deluge upon the city and the very heavens seemed as if they would be washed from their foundations.  This mighty flood of water, of course, swelled the Ocmulgee greater than ever, so with the coming of yesterday morning, the river presented a view never before seen in Macon.  The water rolled up into the park washing clear across the mile track. We took a drive through the park yesterday with Mr. Clay and found the water at the park gate nearly at the hub of the wheel, while just behind the grand stand the water came nearly into the buggy.  All the flowerbeds are perfectly submerged.  East Macon nearly to the factory is submerged, while boathouses, etc., have been swept away.

Thousands of people visited the river during the day and many took boat rides where only the day before were houses and gardens.  Such a sight has never before occurred in these parts in the recollection of the white men.

Yesterday afternoon the waters began to fall, and no doubt during the night will recede a considerable distance.  Much damage has been done in the fields along the river.

The river has been so full of water for so long a period as during the last four months, nor was there ever so many freshets in one season along its

course.  The present freshet is the fourth once since last November, and each one is noted for its great volume of water.  The Ocmulgee takes its name from the Indian Oc or Och, which signifies water, and Mulgee, babbling or boiling; the name was applied from the many springs that were found along its course and whose pure waters flowed into its channel.  One of its tributaries heads in Fulton and the other two head in Gwinnett County.  The three streams unite about fifty miles above Macon, northwest of Monticello.  Small boats of fifty tons, more than fifty years ago navigated these tributaries.

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