03/09/07 — Corps of Engineers offer Duplin Commissioners thoughts on drainage issues

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Corps of Engineers offer Duplin Commissioners thoughts on drainage issues

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 9, 2007 1:53 PM

KENANSVILLE -- After months of hearing complaints about the drainage situation in Duplin County, the board of commissioners recently asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for help in figuring out the problem.

"There's basically three or four things it could be or it could be a combination of several things," Army Corps Floodplain Management Services civil engineer Ray Batchelor told the board Monday.

He explained that those causes could be an increase in development, problems with the ditching in low-lying areas, forested areas and farms, large amounts of debris in waterways, including beaver dams or significant changes in rainfall amounts or rainfall patterns.

Determining the exact cause, however, will be the goal of a study plan and cost estimate the Corps is currently putting together.

Once the proposal is complete -- hopefully by the first of April -- half of the cost will be picked up by the federal government. The other half will have to be negotiated between the county and the state.

"The funding of this project is probably such that it'll be a couple of years to get the funding together," Batchelor said.

Then once everything is in place, they can begin to determine the problem.

"It's possible (the study) will take a couple of years," he continued. "We'll try and figure out what the problem is, but we can't reduce the flooding if we don't know what's causing it."

But, even after the study is complete, it will likely take several more years to begin work on stopping the flooding.

"Even once we identify the problem, this particular program does not go into implementation," Batchelor said. "It would be up to the state or the locality to come back to us and ask us to implement our findings."

The one thing they know that's not causing flooding in Duplin County, however, is the Corps releasing water from any of its dams or locks on the Cape Fear or the Neuse rivers.

"That's a general misconception," he said.

But, he stressed, the Corps does recognize there is a flooding problem in Duplin County and the rest of the Northeast Cape Fear River Basin.

"It does appear that way," Batchelor said. "We've gotten more complaints of water being higher, particularly since (Hurricane) Floyd (in 1999).

"I don't know if it's something Floyd did or if it's a rain cycle change or exactly why it appears to be doing this."

They do know, though, that Duplin is not the only county suffering from such problems. Similar complaints are being heard from Pender County to the southeast.

"They're a neighboring county and if one is getting a flood problem, it's most likely the other one is, too. But there's also other communities in other river basins having similar problems."

In the meantime, there are things the county can continue to do.

It can continue to blow up beaver dams and trap the beavers -- a program that trapper James Blizzard said is working.

"We still got a lot of beaver out there and we will always have beaver here. However, we are in a much better position than we were before," he said.

The county and private landowners also can keep creeks and streams clean and clear of debris, but depending on the scope of the work to be done, permits may be needed or hefty fines could result.

"It's just best to clear it through our office first," Keith Harris, office manager for the Wilmington Regulatory Field Office, said.

Overall, county officials continued, it's a complex problem and one it's going to take a while to solve.

"This is not a simple issue," county planning director Randall Tyndall said. "To solve this problem it's going to take a combined effort. This didn't get created overnight and it's not going to be fixed overnight."