Watershed project nears completion

Published 11:22 am Saturday, December 11, 2010

Contributing Writer

The Swan Quarter community has always been plagued by flooding.
Now, a long-standing project designed to address this problem is nearing completion
The Swan Quarter Watershed Work Plan was signed Feb. 2, 1965, by J.C. Morris, chairman, and H.W. Cahoon, secretary, members of the Pamlico Soil and Water Conservation District (now the Beaufort County, Hyde County, Washington County, Tyrrell County and Dare County districts.) The project was authorized by Congress a few years earlier as a result of five hurricanes that caused damage to the area from 1954 to 1960. The original project called for 17.7 miles of dike, three pumping plants, 16 tidegate structures and 19.1 miles of channel improvements. The watershed included 11,440 acres, with 7,293 acres of that acreage in cropland.
The project included a West Quarter and Double Bay supplement published in 1984. This part of the original project would protect cropland east of Swan Quarter. Funding for the West Quarter and Double Bay project was $6,000,000 and encompassed phases I through VII. A Corps of Engineers permit was issued in February 1986. Work began on the project in 1987, with salt-water intrusion on cropland as the main motivation for its need. By 1995, after seven phases, six miles of dike and six major tidegate structures had been completed.
After suffering from flooding as the result of six hurricanes in the mid- to late 1990s, local residents redoubled their efforts to see the project completed. A Coastal Area Management Act permit was issued in December 2002, and a Corps of Engineers permit in January 2003. Phase VII began in June 2003, which took up construction of the dike where it was stopped in the mid-1990s with the purpose of moving toward Swan Quarter. The total funding amount for phases VIII through XI was $4,681,938.
The project received $5,280,858 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This portion came from an $84.8 million supplement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture allocated in April 2009 for projects in rural communities that improve water quality, promote wildlife habitat and decrease soil erosion.
An April 20, 2009, White House press release quotes U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as saying:
“President Obama is committed to improving water quality, creating more dependable water supplies and decreasing soil erosion and this funding will make a big difference in the lives of the people who live in these rural communities.”
Debbie Cahoon is the administrative soil and water technician for the Hyde County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Cahoon said her organization plays an important role in making sure the dike is serving its purpose.
“Once the project is done, it is required to be maintained and the Natural Resource Conservation Service does an annual inspection. Prior to or after any storm event, we will go out and do maintenance checks on the dike, and we will write it up in a report. The report is then submitted to the county.”
The project is in its 13th phase, which began in Sept. 13 and is projected to end in June 2011. Project phases usually last a year.
The majority of the dike is earthen. The areas around Swan Quarter and the areas affected by wetlands are protected by a vinyl wall.
The companies working on the project include Sawyer’s Land Developing and T.A. Loving Construction Services.