05/21/06 — Officials continue work on flooding

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Officials continue work on flooding

By Turner Walston
Published in News on May 21, 2006 2:08 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- After more than 4 inches of rain fell in 90 minutes in one day last year, Piggly Wiggly owner Moses King found a flood in his parking lot and standing water in his store.

This year, he said, the rains aren't worrying him since the town's officials have implimented a new plan to handle stormwater runoff.

After last summer's downpour caused flooding on Breazeale Avenue, town officials and engineers started working to prevent flooding problems, attempting to control stormwater runoff with retention ponds and culverts.

King said quick cloud bursts are more of a threat than a hurricane.

"You can plan for a hurricane," he said. "Those types of rains that just break on you out of nowhere, you can't plan for."

Last fall, construction began on a retention pond in the southeast corner of Mount Olive College. Currently, the pond is dammed, with overflow spilling into the culvert that eventually reaches the Cape Fear River watershed. Assistant Town Manager Charles Brown said the town will lay pipe at the bottom of the pond to prevent standing water.

"It'll be a dry pond when it's not raining," he said.

The college will expand the pond, Brown said.

"They understand that they've got to do some stormwater control," he said.

The culvert that runs from that retention pond to the Cape Fear watershed is being expanded east of Breazeale Avenue. Designed to move water quickly out of town, the culvert is lined with concrete hog barn slats in a holding area behind El Mazatlan restaurant.

Brown said he is planning to ask state Department of Transportation officials for permission to build a second culvert underneath Breazeale Avenue.

"I think that's the critical component to solving the water problem from the college watershed," King said.

Beaver dams downriver often cause water to back up into town, Brown said. The town will monitor and clean dams as needed.

"It'll still require monitoring pretty much on a continuous basis," he said.

Brown said Mount Olive is in a unique situation in that it is located in two watersheds, for both the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.

"It sort of creates its own set of problems," he said.

A second retention pond is being constructed near Carver Cemetery to alleviate flooding problems near Crest Avenue. Although that pond has not been completed, a pipe to direct flow from Crest Avenue has been laid. Recent rains caused water to back up through the pipe to where the pond would have been, Brown said.

"It's pretty amazing to see how effective it's been," he said.

King and Brown both said runoff rates are a consequence of growth in the town. Economic development requires more paved areas. That water has to go somewhere, they said.

"It all increases the rate of runoff," King said. "When you combine the natural growth that occurs in an area, you get this type of problem."

"We're sort of playing catch-up," Brown said. But the town is saving money by completing the project with town labor, he added.

Stormwater runoff is a priority for engineers on the municipal and state levels, Brown said. "That's one of the top things on the list to deal with."

King, who has owned the Piggly Wiggly since 1971, said the store has flooded "probably a dozen times." But now, he is confident that town officials will work together to solve the problem.

"I think what they're doing will be effective," King said. "I'm real optimistic that they will do the right thing as they move forward."