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Whiteville completes city storm drainage study

By: Jefferson Weaver, staff writer - The News Reporter

A study of stormwater problems in Whiteville has been completed, and officials hope to have some possible solutions on paper in the coming weeks.

“This is a long, slow process,” said City Manager Darren Currie. “The field work has been completed, so now we know what to do. Now it gets turned over to the engineers to see how it can be done.”

Using a Golden LEAF grant, the city embarked on a sweeping study of the entire drainage system earlier this year, in the wake of last year’s devastating floods. The city hopes to coordinate with the multi-million-dollar county project that will eventually clear every major waterway in the county and improve drainage.

The study contained some disturbing but not surprising news, Currie said. “We have a lot of pipes that are undersized for the amount of water we have fl owing through here now,” he said.

“When those pipes were put in, there were far fewer impermeable surfaces. Now we have hard-surface roads, parking lots, driveways – there’s nowhere for the water to go except down the pipes or the ditches. It can’t soak into the ground any more.”

Currie said that the fi eld study identified some problems that can be handled at relatively little cost by the city, including some ditch improvements and driveway tiles.

“These are some things that won't cost a lot of money and will help,” he said.

A big player in any city drainage project, Currie said, is the Department of Transportation.

“They have been watching our study with some interest,” he said, “and it’s with good reason. Many of the streets affected by flooding are DOT maintained roadways. We have to have their permission to do any work on them.

“I hope we can partner with the DOT on some of the larger projects,” Currie said. “We have to have their permission anyway, and I’d like to have them on board with us when we do start some work.”

A completely unrelated DOT project could benefit the city’s drainage improvements, Currie said. The expansion planned for U.S. 701 Bypass will require mitigation of some wetlands, and Currie said he hopes DOT and environmental regulators will consider targeting Soules Swamp to improve the city’s primary outfall of stormwater.

“There are a lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘mays’ to deal with,” Currie said. “Until the engineers figure out how to do what we need to do, it’s all guesswork.”

One thing that cannot be changed, Currie said, is the city’s location.

“We have to face the fact that Whiteville is built on swampy ground,” he said. “At the courthouse, the elevation is 100 feet. By the time you get to the railroad, it’s dropped to 62. Then when you get to the intersection of Lee, Franklin and Madison, it drops another eight feet. That’s a drop of nearly 50 feet in elevation, heading right into the swamp. The water is going to go there. There’s no stopping it.”

Stuart Rogers