River studies announced

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, November 21, 2017

RALEIGH – Governor Roy Cooper’s office announced here on Nov. 13 that after widespread devastation from Hurricane Matthew, North Carolina is using experts to study the Cashie, Lumber, Neuse and Tar rivers to help prevent future flooding.

“Communities throughout Eastern North Carolina are rebuilding from Hurricane Matthew, and we want to learn all we can from these floods so we can better prepare for the future,” the Governor said. “This effort will guide our recovery from the last storm and make us better equipped to weather the next one.”

Cooper then announced the state is establishing Advisory Councils in the affected areas around the Neuse, Lumber, and Tar rivers. The councils will include local leaders and will provide an opportunity for experts to work with flood-prone communities on ways to better prepare for and prevent flooding.

One of Cooper’s top priorities is to help the recovery efforts in eastern North Carolina and be better prepared for future storms. These flood mitigation studies will help the state learn more about the sources and severity of the flooding and to communicate with those in the surrounding areas who were heavily impacted by floods about strategies moving forward. Finally, they can be used to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal partners to implement basin-specific mitigation measures recommended by the respective studies.

In addition to the Governor, North Carolina’s senior U.S. Senator also lauded the study efforts.

“Today’s news is an important step to develop and maintain better defenses against natural disasters like Hurricane Matthew,” said Senator Richard Burr. “Mitigation efforts will make it easier, faster and cheaper for North Carolina to bounce back from weather related events, especially in vulnerable areas like these four river basins. I’m pleased with this progress and look forward to working with state and local entities to begin these efforts.”

Here are the details on each of the four basins:

Cashie River

Both Bertie County and the county seat of Windsor are currently working with North Carolina State University on a hydrologic and hydraulic model and strategic mitigation study of the Cashie River. This study is funded through the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 (DRA-16), allocation by the Golden LEAF Foundation. The results of the study, headed by Dr. Barbara Doll of North Carolina Sea Grant, are expected to be available in early 2018.

The county, and especially the town, recently experienced severe flooding from several large hurricane and tropical storm events that resulted in substantial structural flooding and associated damage.

“The Town of Windsor is actively mitigating the damage through buyout and retrofitting programs,” Doll noted. “However, due to the historic significance of the town combined with serving as the economic center of Bertie County, there is also a strong desire to protect the future of the town by reducing the frequency and magnitude of future flood events.”

When completed, Dr. Doll and the other engineers will outline a flood reduction feasibility study that is intended to identify appropriate engineering options and best management practices targeted at reducing runoff and surface flow reaching the Cashie River from the watershed and its tributaries and for reducing the direct flow of water into the town during river flooding events.

The study will help Windsor and Bertie County to prioritize appropriate approaches for reducing flooding.

Neuse River

North Carolina Emergency Management, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT), will lead a flood source and mitigation study of the Neuse River basin to be completed in early spring of 2018. The study will also put forward recommended mitigation strategies. North Carolina State University will partner with NCEM and other experts to coordinate with the US Highway 70 Corridor Commission and communities in the Neuse River basin.

Additionally, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) has been awarded a $500,000 grant by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to catalogue all existing information on dam systems throughout the basin, and integrate this information into a hydrologic and hydraulic model. This model will further the experts’ understanding of the effectiveness of these dams.

Lumber River

North Carolina Emergency Management, working with NCDOT, will lead a basin-wide study of the Lumber River to be completed in the spring of 2018. The study will also put forward recommended mitigation strategies.

Recently, NCEM Risk Management completed a study on the flooding around the levee in Lumberton. This was a major source of flooding for properties and for I-95. The study generated five possible flood mitigation strategies for the City of Lumberton to consider, including the installation and operation of flood gates where there are openings around the levee. The results of the study are expected to be shared with the city soon.

Tar River

North Carolina Emergency Management, in tandem with NCDOT, will lead a basin-wide study of the Tar River to be completed in the spring of 2018.

Additionally, working with NC DOT, the engineer firm Moffat & Nichol is conducting an in-depth hydrology study of the section of the Tar River between Tarboro and Princeville. This study is scheduled to be complete in early 2018 and will inform Tarboro and Princeville about the causes of major flooding and the best strategies to mitigate future floods. This study will be incorporated into the larger Tar River study led by North Carolina Emergency Management.