05/03/17 — Debris removal to ease flooding

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Debris removal to ease flooding

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 3, 2017 9:57 AM

Nearly three-quarters of a million dollars will be spent on clearing debris from Wayne County streams in an effort to improve flow and lessen the potential for flooding.

Wayne County, the city of Goldsboro and the Bear Creek Watershed all have received grant funds for that work, Wayne Soil and Water Conservation Director Ashley Smith told Wayne County commissioners on Tuesday.

The state's Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 included funding for storm debris removal from Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storms Hermine and Julia.

The act appropriated about $200 million across the state, and the county applied for two grants that targeted stream cleanouts.

The county has received $237,473 in state funding through the Golden LEAF Foundation and another $223,961 from the Disaster Recovery Relief Program through Soil and Water Conservation.

The money will be used to remove debris from streams and creeks, but not the Neuse River.

The city received slightly more than $105,000 in grant funding, while the Bear Creek Watershed received approximately $184,000, Ms. Smith said.

Since each group had a funding cap, applying separately brought more money into the county, Ms. Smith said.

The county will contract out its work, and Ms. Smith's office will be in charge of overseeing project as far as on-site visits and obtaining right-of-way.

It also will be responsible for ensuring what should be done is done and final inspection before payment can be made, she said.

Letters will be sent to property owners asking for permission to be on the property. If the property owner does not respond, the section of the stream on the property will have to be bypassed, she said.

"In the coming months, once we have the bids in and know who is going to be doing it, is going to be really, really important if you are talking to people that when we start sending out mail for land access, right-of-ways, that they respond to us," she said. "Without their permission we have to skip over them.

"That potentially means if we can't access it from the other side of the stream then it is being missed altogether, and it is still causing problems."

About 21 miles along 11 streams including Stoney Creek, which weaves in and out of the city limits, will be cleaned.

However, it depends on how the bids come back, she said.

Ms. Smith said she had spoken with city officials who said they city would pick up the pieces of Stoney Creek inside the city limits.

Stoney Creek from Combs Road all the way to the Neuse River will be cleaned, she said.

The other targeted streams include:

* Halfmile Branch (near Ferry Bridge Road and Old Smithfield Road) to the Neuse River.

* Creek beginning near First Congregational Church on the Old Mount Olive Highway, Dudley, to Durham Lake.

* Durham Lake to Thoroughfare Swamp.

* Thoroughfare Swamp to Falling Creek.

* Blue line ditch at U.S. 13 South to Falling Creek.

* Falling Creek to the Neuse.

"It is a snag and drag program, and we have to follow the Army Corps of Engineers' 1992 guidelines on what we can remove," Ms. Smith said. "What that means is that only log accumulations that are restricting or obstructing flow can be removed.

"If there is something way down in the water that is flowing the same way as the stream itself, we are not allowed to go in and take that."

Beaver dams will be removed, too. Also it is designed to do minimal disturbance to the stream bank which means heavy equipment will not be used.

"Hand-operated equipment will be our first choice for removal," she said. "We are going to be looking at wenches, chainsaws, small boats that you can pull behind you with equipment."

The debris will be taken from the stream and place between 15 to 30 feet up from the stream bed. The grant does not provide extra money for hauling off the debris, Ms. Smith said. Commissioner Joe Daughtery questioned why the debris could not be moved further away from the stream.

"They are aware that this floods are going to come right back and in fact go beyond the 30 feet and wash it right back into the stream," he said. "I am not understanding why there would be that condition. Did they not learn from (Hurricane) Fran. Go ahead and remove it."

There is potential for that, but there is no money to remove the debris and the only other option would be to put removal on the landowner and no one wants that, she said.

Some of it will wash back in and other parts of it will decay, County Manager George Wood said.

It can also provide animal habitat, Ms. Smith said.

"The end result is hopefully going to be improved flow in these areas and less potential for flooding." she said. "It doesn't guarantee it, but at least it gives us a better chance of the water getting to where to needs to down at the Neuse."