Study Aims to Help Water Management in Tyrrell County

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tyrrell County has elevations at or just above sea level across much

of the county.


Therefore, water management is a critical activity for preventing

flooding of agricultural lands, towns, and communities.


Tyrrell County recently implemented a water management study with

technical assistance from the Albemarle Resource Development

Conservation and Development Council. The Albemarle RC&D Council’s

consultant worked with a county water management committee and Tyrrell

Soil and Water Conservation District staff and supervisors.


The Albemarle RC&D Council is a regional non-profit group that works

in 10 counties around the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, including

Tyrrell County. It has assisted Tyrrell,Perquimans, Pasquotank,

Camden, and Currituck counties with similar water management studies.


The R&D study notes how streams, canals, and water management

structures are easily damaged or impaired by storm events ranging from

strong thunderstorms to tropical storms and hurricanes.


“The inventory and mapping of water management and drainage features

in a Geographic Information System will help the county develop

long-range plans for water management, including a coordinated

response to natural disasters,” reads a beginning portion of the



Mapping streams, canals, and water management systems at the watershed

level will also provide the county with the information it needs to

consider establishing Special Use Water Management Districts.  Each

SUWMD would have a three to four person advisory board of local

residents. The advisory board would help identify and prioritize water

management projects within the SUMWMD and help secure funding for

priority projects.


Tyrrell County contacted the Albemarle RC&D Council to perform the

following tasks:

-Coordinate the study with the county’s Water Management Committee and

Tyrrell Soil and Water Conservation District staff and supervisors.

-Identify and obtain maps and GIS data which will directly contribute

to the implementation of the study

-Develop an inventory of drainage sub-basins and surface drainage

features using ArcMap GIS

-Identify key water management systems and structures, system

components needing maintenance, and other factors that would

contribute adversely to water quality.

-Provide a draft language for establishing Special Use Water

Management Districts

-Develop a prioritized list for clearing and snagging major streams

and canals on a 5-year recurrence interval

-Develop a list of areas to be analyzed in the future for possible use

of Best Management  Practices to protect water quality.

-Develop a report documenting data-collection methods and areas to be

analyzed for BMPS


The first step of the study was to collect information from local

residents through the water management committee, and group and

individual meetings. The initial water management committee consisted

of Nathan Everett(County Commissioner), Trey Liverman(Tyrrell Soil and

Water Conservation District Supervisor), Rhett White(Manager, Town of

Columbia), Ty Fleming(Tyrrell Soil and Water Technician), Kirby

Balance(former Tyrrell Soil and Water Technician and NRCS Soil and

Conservationist), and Ken Windley(Interim County Manager)


A follow-up meeting was held with farmers and residents throughout the county.


More meeting were held with Ty Fleming and Kirby Balance to review

historical maps and records of water management in the county. From

these meetings the information listed below was collected and used in

this study:


-NRCS and Soil and sub-watershed maps to define and digitize the proposed SUWMD

-Forest Service and DOT maps to digitize secondary roads and drainage features

-NRCS and Soil and Water maps to digitize clearing and snagging of

streams, canals, and ditches post Hurricane Isabel

-Maps from a 1978 drainage study to digitize Class A,B,C,D,E, and F

drainage features in the county.

-Current aerial imagery and local knowledge to map dikes and locations of pumps

-The county’s parcels database to calculate different costs of

maintaining mapped drainage features on a five-year interval in each



The RC&D study notes:


“The information presented in this study and digitized in GIS is a

baseline for the county to move forward with water management

planning.  The information and data should be continually updated as

the county considers forming SUWMD, and develops plans or projects for

specific areas.”


The proposed SUWMD were defined mainly along sub-watershed boundaries.

A few parcels were split by boundaries and these were included

entirely within the most appropriate SUWMD.

The proposed SUWMD are:





-Alligator/Goat Neck

-Riders Creek/Travis

-Second Creek

-Frying Pan




The Gum Neck in Figure 1 next to this article was not included in this

study since it is a functioning federal watershed district


County-wide water management issues and concerns were identified

through the meetings with farmers and local residents and are

summarized below:


County-Wide Issues and Concerns:

-Need regular maintenance of drainage outlets to creeks, rivers, and sound

-Need to prioritize and schedule snagging and clearing of canals,

creeks, and rivers

-Need regular schedule of alligator weed control including dip out of

dead material.

-Need regular schedule of beaver control

-Need to maintain state drainage easements

-Much of the agricultural land in the county is managed by groups of

farmers with dikes,pumps, and drainage canals

-State and federal regulations make it difficult for the county and

private citizens to clean or maintain established drainage outlets on

creeks, rivers, and the Sound

-There is concern that USFWS is not allowing enough reserve capacity

on its lands for storm events, which causes stormwater to back up on

private lands

-Information on historical drainage and water management from local

farmers and residents is a key to minimizing the impacts on drainage

from construction or maintenance of roads


Recommendations for Future Water Management:

-Establish a permanent Water Management Committee consisting of at

least one person from each SUWMD/sub-watershed. The committee would

meet regularly to address county water management issues and to update

the county’s water management plan through the SWCD office

-The WMC would meet with DOT representation to review the impact of

road construction on water management.

-The WMC would meet with representatives of the Pocosin Lakes NWR to

discuss the impact of water management in the NWTR on private lands.

-The WMC would help set priorities for water management activities

including clearing and snagging, alligator weed control, beaver

control and special projects.

Ty Fleming explained that he played an important role in the study:

“My role in this was to talk to citizens to find out some of the

concerns in each of the sub watersheds, put together meetings for the

Water Management Committee, organize past maps that showed what

channels were cleaned from previous hurricanes, take pictures of

drainage issues such as beaver dams, sedimentation, and storm debris.

I also had to measure and photo various channels that depict the different channel classifications and learn how SUWMD’s work in other counties.”