Developed Down To A Trickle

September 08, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

James Gray remembers when the stream that runs past his house was large enough to put a rowboat in.

"We used to catch catfish and everything out there," the Jones Station Road resident said of the gentle ribbon of water that has been his neighbor since 1936. "We never had no flood or nothing."

Now that nameless stream is at best about 6 inches deep.

Years of county development and human carelessness has caused the banks of the stream to erode and fill the bed with dirt.

County land use and environmental officer Tom Andrews said the problems on Dividing Creek and its tributaries are typical of several creeks in the county.

A stream that is braided, or winding, such as the one that feeds into Dividing Creek, creates more erosion problems. Rainwater flows into the stream from many different directions because it has no specific channel to follow.

"You have to reconstruct the stream channels," said Mr. Andrews.

That is what he intends to do with a $225,000 program announced in May that will shore up county stream banks with natural materials.

"Dividing Creek is one of the areas we're going to work on this [fiscal] year," he said. "We hope to start in the spring."

Whether the project will start on time depends on if the county is able to get a federal permit to work in the area west of Jones Station Road.

The area is prone to flooding after heavy rains.

Several years of development has meant more buildings and paved surfaces to repel water and less ground for the water to seep into, making the water run more quickly.

The runoff backs up because the culverts beneath Jones Station Road are incapable of handling the flow.

The problem is compounded by trash left by humans, which sometimes clogs the culverts, Mr. Gray said.

"All the storm drains come to one point," he said. "That pipe can only take so much."

The result for Mr. Gray and his neighbors is a marsh-like setting that usually lasts 1 1/2 days after a heavy storm.

The county government needs a permit to rebuild the banks because the flooding has promoted the growth of certain plants that make the area a nontidal wetland, Mr. Andrews said.

Wetlands are protected by the federal government.

Mr. Andrews said the county will apply for the permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this fall.

Downstream, people living on Dividing Creek see the results of the stream bank erosion and the sediment in the creek.

"What I see after a heavy rain is discoloration, kind of a coffee-with-cream color," said Pat Troy. "Sometimes you can actually see discoloration moving up the creek and sometimes it's just all one yucky color."

Mr. Andrews said there have been plans to dredge the mouth of the creek for "a number of years," but again, waiting for a federal permit has prevented the work.

Mr. Andrews said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not grant permission to dredge unless something is being done upstream of the creek to prevent the sediment build-up.

He said he thinks that permit may be issued soon, since the plans to rebuild the banks of the stream will be under way soon.

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