Wayne County is ready to begin a nearly half-million-dollar stream cleanout project to help mitigate possible future flooding caused by storms and/or heavy rains.

But in order to move forward, the county will need access to properties adjacent to the streams and/or properties abutting them if needed in order to access the waterways.

Letters, including an agreement to allow that access, will be sent out to property owners on Friday.

The agreement allowing the access must be completed, signed and returned. If a property owner does not respond, or does not grant access, that section of the stream on the property will be bypassed.

The grants funding the project do not provide any money for hauling off the debris. Instead it will be taken from the stream and placed between 15 to 30 feet up from the stream bed. The agreement spells out that the property owner agrees to that condition.

The agreement would allow contractors or subcontractors to use paths on the property but does not authorize them to cross over any field in which a crop is growing.

"We need these letters returned ASAP so we can move forward with the project," said Ashley Smith, Soil Conservation coordinator/director.

The county has received $461,473 in grants for the work to remove storm debris left behind by Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storms Julia and Hermine. It includes $223,961 from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Soil & Water -Stream Debris Removal Project, and $237,473 from the Golden LEAF Foundation.

The initial work, which will include removal of at least four beaver dams, will be done in two phases.

Much of the first phase of will focus on Stoney Creek from:

* Combs Road to the U.S. 70 Bypass.

* U.S. 70 Bypass to Goldsboro city limit.

* Goldsboro city limit to where city limit crosses West New Hope Road.

* Billy Branch to where city limit crosses Royall Avenue.

* Off Slocumb Street to the Neuse River.

Other channels to be cleaned in the first phase are Halfmile Branch and the one from near First Congregational Church at Dudley to Durham Lake and then to the outlet from Durham Lake to Thoroughfare Swamp.

The second phase will include Thoroughfare Swamp to Falling Creek; Falling Creek at U.S. 13 South to the Neuse River; and the U.S. 13 South blue line ditch to Falling Creek at Hood Drive.

While the cleanout work can extend up to and along the Neuse River, the county cannot do any work in the river itself.

The cleanout will be 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 will be done by hand and light equipment in order to minimize the impact on the streams and surrounding areas.

The county awarded a $146,507.25 contract to A&K Grading for the work in July.

The low bid left the county with approximately $315,000 in grant funding.

Wayne County commissioners have agreed to work with A&K Grading on pricing, basically using the same unit price in the bid for possible other streams including:

* Thunder Swamp (Mount Olive area).

* Nahunta Swamp (Eureka area).

* Poplar Branch to the Neuse River (Mar Mac area).

* Approximately 55 locations along the Neuse River that have blockages.

Assistant County Manager Craig Honeycutt said the county is continuing those negotiations.

"Definitely, we are going to maximize the entire amount of both grants," Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt said he did not have a timetable for the work, but that the county wants to start as soon as possible after the agreements are returned.