When the town of Mount Olive held a public hearing last month on an ordinance regulating new construction in floodways, local residents were more concerned with the frequent flooding caused by debris-clogged streams.

A countywide project to address those concerns is underway as work continues to clear waterways across Wayne County in an effort to reduce flooding caused by heavy rains whether they are produced by a hurricane or summer thunderstorm.

"The areas that have been completed definitely have improved water flow," said Ashley Smith, Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District director. "The beaver dams backed up water as high as four feet in some areas. The crew actually had to pull out and work in another area -- the blue line ditch at U.S. 13 -- while waiting for the water to return to the natural channel.

"The crew is currently working on Thoroughfare Swamp and getting close to crossing under U.S. 13 South. It has taken several weeks, and I have been told it is some of the worst the crew has ever seen. It's too soon to tell as far as flooding, but we definitely see a less potential (for flooding) once the project is complete."

The cleanout is a "snag and drag" operation in which crews will clean debris that has fallen into the stream bed and is restricting water flow and/or contributing to flooding during heavy rain events.

It is being done by hand and light equipment in order to minimize the impact on the streams and surrounding areas.

The grant does not provide money for hauling the debris off. Instead it will be taken from the stream and placed between 15 to 30 feet up from the stream bed.

Letters will be sent to property owners asking for permission to be on private property along the streams. If the property owner does not respond, the section of the stream on the property be bypassed.

So far 6.53 miles have been completed for phases one and two and approximately 17.6 miles remain.

Cleaned out so far are the blue line ditch near the First Congregational Church to Durham Lake, Durham Lake to Herring Road at Dudley and the blue line ditch at Grantham (middle bridge) to Falling Creek and Halfmile Swamp.

Work still remains to be done on Stoney Creek (except for the parts that fall in the Goldsboro city limits), Herring Road to Thoroughfare Swamp, Thoroughfare Swamp to Falling Creek (behind Hood Drive), Falling Creek to the Neuse River (crosses over Old Grantham Road and Stevens Mill Road).

"Parts one and two are scheduled to be completed by Aug. 1, but the amount of debris found as we proceed and Mother Nature play a huge part in how quickly we progress," Smith said.

The third phase, which will not start until the first two phases are complete, will clean out another approximately 29 miles.

Phase three will include:

* The blue line stream at Lee's Country Club Road to Thunder Swamp at Mount Olive.

* Thunder Swamp to Thoroughfare Swamp.

* Thoroughfare Swamp at Grantham School Road to the outlet of Durham Lake (from there to the Neuse River is already covered in the first two parts).

* Poplar Branch at the Old Mount Olive Highway to the Neuse River.

* The blue line ditch at Mill Run subdivision.

* The canal beginning on Claridge Nursery Road at St. Joseph Free Will Baptist Church to the Little River.

* The approximately 17 miles of Little River that fall in the county's jurisdiction. Approximately five miles of the Little River falls within the Goldsboro city limits.

"The City of Goldsboro is working very hard to include this in their ongoing project," Smith said,

The county received $237,473.93 from the Golden LEAF Foundation and $223,961 from the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services-Division of Soil & Water. A&K Grading Co. of LaGrange is doing the work.

Large dead trees that have to be cut up into small section just to be moved have been the most common obstructions pulled from the waterways, Smith said.

"To date we have removed four (beaver) dams," she said. "All were located along Yellow Marsh Swamp in the Herring Road to Thoroughfare Swamp section."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is contracted for all beaver work.

No sections of waterways covered by the first two phases have had to be bypassed because the landowner did not give permission to be on the property.

"We are still collecting letter for part three," Smith said. "At this point we only have about 50 percent response. We will need a lot more before we can start.

"Please send letters back in if you live in these areas. We can also provide additional copies if needed."

So far so no work has been done on the Neuse River,

"We have tried many different avenues to include the Neuse in our project, but it is not feasible," Smith said. "The Neuse is very wide and even though there is some debris there is not enough in any one location to completely block the flow of water.

"Dredging was never an option. Cleaning out the tributaries will benefit the citizens more as a whole. There are a few more areas we would like to reach. At this time I will not mention those areas. It will be some time before I know if money will be potentially available."