Finding Solutions

Published 11:15 am Monday, July 3, 2017

WINDSOR – Despite the absence of any moisture-laden tropical systems on the weather radar making a beeline for eastern ‘Carolina, Bertie County and Town of Windsor officials feel there’s no time like the present to talk about flooding from previous storms.

In a joint press release sent Wednesday by John Trent, Chairman of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, and Windsor Mayor James F. (Jimmy) Hoggard, both men addressed the obvious….flooding is a problem in the town and in the county, particularly along the Cashie River Basin.

Trent and Hoggard stressed the need of a study, performed by professionals, that will point to what causes the river to rise so rapidly and what solutions are available that can possibly correct the problems.

Currently, the county and the town are under the advisement from scientists at East Carolina University and North Carolina State University that a complete study is needed.

“Some have asked why we need a study,” Trent and Hoggard said in the press release. “You cannot go to any state or federal agency and ask for assistance without concrete proof of the cause.

“They also have plainly stated that there is no single solution. Preliminary conclusions by experts state it will take multiple fixes to stop the severe flooding. It is an oversimplification to think there is a single solution,” the press release added.

As reported earlier by this newspaper, The Golden Leaf Foundation has approved a grant in the amount of $72,707 to fully fund this study.

Additionally, as earlier reported, The Golden Leaf Foundation approved $500,000 for the planning, engineering and architectural design of a new building that will jointly serve as the Cooperative Extension Office and the new home of the Lawrence Memorial Public Library.

“We are most grateful to the Golden Leaf Foundation,” Trent and Hoggard stated.

To date, Trent and Hoggard said one conclusion of the preliminary flooding-related studies is that the water reaches Windsor much quicker than it used to. They noted in the 19th century there were numerous millponds in the county that offered some control to flooding. Also, water levels in the Albemarle Sound were lower years ago. Now, higher levels in the Sound hold water back.

“What appears to be a big contribution (to flooding issues) is bridge construction,” the two local leaders remarked. “Five bridges on the upper Cashie have been built in the past 20 years. In most of these cases the bridge openings were expanded and some considerably widened. In addition at numerous creeks, very large culverts replaced smaller ones. The cumulative effect of this is to speed up the river flow. It is possible to slow this down without adversely affecting upstream property owners.”

Trent and Hoggard added there are also efforts being made downstream to relocate some businesses, residences, and governmental buildings, thusly moving them out of the areas prone to severe flooding. Other buildings, they said, can be retrofitted to withstand flooding.

Several state agencies are working diligently with county and town staff on these efforts.

“All in all, many efforts are underway to address all causes and effects of these storms. It is a lengthy process, but efforts by all parties are underway,” Trent and Hoggard stated.

“A solution will take several years to implement. Soon an accurate list of realistic solutions will be compiled and work can commence. We will update the citizens as more information is available,” the press release concluded.

Trent and Hoggard also thanked North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper for visiting Bertie County and Windsor on June 20 where he spoke with town and county officials, emergency management personnel, and others. He toured numerous sites in the county as well as announcing a $584,299 grant (combined state and federal funds) to construct a new Bertie EMS Station One that was severely flooded at its downtown Windsor location during Mother Nature’s one-two punch (Tropical Storm Julia and Hurricane Matthew) nine months ago.

In addition to that announcement, Gov. Cooper said earlier this week that nonprofit organizations operating in 13 hard-hit North Carolina counties will get $810,000 to help volunteers rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Matthew.

Of that amount, NC Baptist Men will receive $368,000 to repair homes in Bertie, Duplin, Robeson, Sampson and Wayne counties.

Hurricane Matthew flooded tens of thousands of homes and businesses in North Carolina and caused $4.8 billion in total damage, primarily in the eastern part of the state.

To date, more than $1 billion in state and federal funds have already been spent or designated for North Carolina recovery efforts, but Cooper said more help is needed.

Cooper is working closely with the state’s congressional delegation and directly with US Housing and Urban Development to win additional federal recovery funds. He is also working with state legislators to secure additional state funds that are needed.

“Matthew ravaged half the counties in our state, and recovery can’t come soon enough for those hurt by the storm,” said Gov. Cooper. “Working together, we will help families, businesses, and communities across our state get back on their feet again.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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