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Pine Bluff awarded $32 million to fix flooding issues

Arkansas was awarded $96 million as part of President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law and some of it will go to help Pine Bluff's flooding problems.

PINE BLUFF, Ark. — With storms expected during spring, heavy rainfall can sometimes mean flash flooding.

That's something home and business owners never want to hear.  For people in Pine Bluff, that issue could soon become a thing of the past.

"The water just came up real fast, [and] like, within 15 minutes just flooded up good," said Kendrick Williams, owner of Pop's Barbershop.

Williams has been in the same downtown location since 2003 and a few years ago had to shut down the shop to deal with flooding problems.

When there is a chance for heavy downpours, it brings back memories of what happened to his business just a few years ago.

"It went inside the building and when it went to the back," Williams said.

That flooding had Williams considering whether to move his business into a part of town that doesn't have to deal with the risk of flooding when it starts raining.

State Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Mike Sullivan said this is also an issue dozens of families face far too often.

"That causes threats to safety, causes damages to roads, just makes life in general difficult," Sullivan said.

These are problems that President Joe Biden's infrastructure package aims to tackle.

"Arkansas received nearly $96 million to address problems in 19 different watersheds, [and] 25 or so communities," Sullivan said.

Pine Bluff will see $32 million of that funding.

Sullivan added that the next steps in improving things like drains are both complex and will happen in four phases.

"You have to do some initial pre-planning to look at what the problems are," Sullivan describes. "Then you go into detailed analysis and planning."

A team of people will work with the city to agree on a plan that works, comply with state and federal requirements for environmental protection and then the ground work will begin after that. 

While Williams had considered moving his barbershop, he said news of the city's plan will have him staying put.

"I'm glad to see some happen. Like better roads, [and] better gutter systems around here," Williams said.

Other cities like Helena, Camden and El Dorado are among those the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service will look into fixing flooding issues as well.

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