Drainage designations discussed

Published 4:27 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Should a ditch be classified as a drainway just as much as a drainpipe is a drainway?
Rhett White, Columbia’s town manager, told the board of aldermen he has been preaching to every grantor agency he visits and every grantor agency bureaucrat he encounters that a ditch is a drainway and an integral part of Columbia’s drainage system.
The grantors — the people who dispense emergency funding after disasters like hurricanes — have been reluctant to consider a ditch as a drainway. They’ll readily hand out money to repair broken underground pipes, but they’re hesitant to qualify a ditch overflowing with mud, limbs, trash and other debris for help, White says.
“Drainage ditches and canals are just as much infrastructure as drainage pipes,” White told the board of aldermen again on Aug. 7.
It’s an uphill struggle convincing city-dwelling grantors of the importance of open ditches in flat land like Columbia, but White was cautiously optimistic that progress is being made in getting them to see the light.
This whole subject becomes even more significant as President Donald Trump continues to press for massive infrastructure upgrades across the United States. If Columbia hopes to share in future disaster relief programs, it’s imperative that the legislation, and the federal regulations written in the law’s wake, define drainage ditches and canals as infrastructure eligible for funding, White says.
An example in Columbia is New Town Ditch that is north of and parallel to Howard Street and flows from Faith Baptist Church on North Road Street westward into Bush Harrell Canal and then into the Scuppernong River.
A drainpipe and catch basins were placed in the ditch and covered with dirt perhaps 20 years ago.
The drainpipe and catch basins are infrastructure, but the canal is not, when it comes to qualifying for emergency recovery aid money.
Another example is the recently cleaned-out canal east of Buds & Suds on Scuppernong Drive. Stormwater from Columbia Middle School campus flows through a drainpipe beneath the highway and into the unnamed canal, and then to Grindle Hill Canal and the Scuppernong River.
White reported Aug. 7 that the town had been reimbursed $21,118 for recently cleaning the unnamed drainage canal, but this was not disaster recovery money.
He also stated that one temporary construction easement is lacking in the North Boundary Canal at the North Road Street project area, where a much larger culvert is to be placed in the canal and the street elevated 18 inches to enable motor vehicles to pass over the culvert.
The hope is the project will reduce flooding in the area.