Flooding mitigation issue of both Tyrrell County and Columbia

Published 7:22 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What are Tyrrell County and the Town of Columbia doing to mitigate flood losses and reduce future flood chances here? That question was posed to county Manager David Clegg and town Manager Rhett White, and their statements are printed below:
Drainage is a critical infrastructure concern in a Pocosin wetland.
Addressing drainage is a multifaceted task that crosses county departmental focus and levels of government. The management of drainage is administered through a web of local, state and federal rules and is tempered by the acknowledgment of private and public property rights. Many county efforts affect Columbia and vice versa, and Columbia has also been active in this arena.
Tyrrell County is engaged in the following activities:
  • Road Street Project is in part funded with $400,000-plus Golden LEAF administered round 1 Matthew funds.
  • In 2016, Tyrrell was awarded $175,000 for Essential Single Family Rehabilitation Fund projects.
  • In 2017, Tyrrell was awarded $150,000 for Essential Single Family Rehabilitation Fund projects.
  • In 2016, Tyrrell was awarded one 2015 grant cycle Hazard Mitigation Residential Grant for a Cemetery Road structure demolition and rebuild for $175,000.
  • Tyrrell is engaged with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the long-range planning relative to refuge water tables and their effects on neighboring tracts and historic drainage. Tyrrell continues to be engaged with Buck Ridge, Futch and Peartree staff at the state level regarding maintenance and drainage mitigation activities.
  • Tyrrell is a currently an applicant for round 2 Matthew-related funds through Golden LEAF in the amount of $2.8 million.
  • Tyrrell has an excellent working relationship with the DOT board member [Allen Moran] and DOT is currently working on right-of-way drainage in the Ludford Road area. DOT works across the county on right-of-way drainage and has just finished work on Magnolia Road.
  • Tyrrell has spent over $20,000 on a boat, sprayers and chemicals for Soil and Water and county maintenance staff to spray for alligator weed. In 2016, 44.1 miles were sprayed and in 2017, 43.97 miles have been sprayed.
  • In 2016, Tyrrell was awarded $179,040 for clearing and snagging projects administered by Soil and Water.
  • With residual Irene phase 3 funds, the county has used Soil and Water grant funds of $30,250 in clearing and snagging projects.
  • In 2017, Tyrrell was awarded two Hazard Mitigation projects not to exceed $350,000.
  • The county maintains a close relationship with Albemarle Resource Conservation & Development Council in the regional approach to drainage issues.
  • Drainage has consistently appeared on the list of requests to our General Assembly representatives for special provision funding.
  • Ag Extension is involved in direct assistance to the agricultural community to make farmlands continually viable and profitable.
  • Alligator sewer project is $2.5 million to address failing septic systems due to unsuitable soils.
This is not a definitive listing by any means, but reflects on the importance of the matter.
Our list is not as extensive as that of the county, but several Tyrrell County mitigation efforts will directly impact town residents.
  • The Town of Columbia is requesting $200,000 in Golden LEAF funds to dredge the North Boundary Canal.
  • An earlier funding request for this project was not funded, but the town has continued to push to get funding agencies to recognize that canals and drainage ditches are an integral part of any coastal stormwater drainage system.
  • The canal running from U.S. Highway 64/Scuppernong Drive to the Grindle Hill Canal has been snagged and cleaned, using town funds that were reimbursed by FEMA.
  • The town is part of the Tyrrell County/NCDOT effort to elevate North Road Street at the North Boundary Canal while replacing existing culverts with larger capacity ones.
  • Two Columbia homes were selected to be elevated using state funds.
  • The Town secured $150,000 through the N.C. Housing Finance Agency to help residents who are selected to repair and elevate their homes. Applications will be accepted through December.
  • The Cemetery Road structure being addressed through the county is located inside the town limits. We support all Tyrrell County efforts that impact town residents.
  • The town continues to clean storm drains and prepare storm drainage pumps for any future storms bringing floodwaters.
  • We may not be able to hold the waters back in case of a hurricane, but we should do everything possible to help residents and businesses mitigate floodwater damage. This includes supporting residents who want to elevate their homes above the base flood elevation. Columbia requires new and substantially renovated structures to be at least 2 feet above flood level.


The Union of Concerned Scientists has identified communities at risk of disruptive flooding as well as how much time remains before the flooding becomes chronic. Its report on the effects of sea level rise was issued in July. To view the document online, visit www.ucsusa.org/RisingSeasHitHome.

This analysis assumes that a community faces “chronic inundation” when high tide flood 10 percent or more of its usable, non-wetland area at least 26 times per year or, on average, every other week. UCS analyzed the exposure of coastal communities to chronic flooding under three different sea-level rise scenarios developed for the 2014 National Climate Assessment — low, intermediate and high.

UCS has identified 13 North Carolina communities that will face such chronic inundation by 2035 and a further 36 by 2100, given the intermediate sea-level rise scenario.

  • UCS projects that 21 percent of Alligator’s usable, non-wetland ground surface will experience chronic inundation by the year 2035, 53 percent by 2060, and 98 percent by 2100.
  • For Columbia, the projection is 11 percent by 2035, 43 percent by 2060, and 95 percent by 2100.
  • For Gum Neck, the numbers are 23 percent by 2035, 46 percent by 2060, and 94 percent by 2100.
  • No Tyrrell County communities are listed as being subject to chronic inundation today, but the report states that 70 percent of East Lake and 48 percent of Fairfield experience persistent, disruptive flooding even now.
  • To view a spreadsheet of all inundated communities in North Carolina, visit www.ucsusa.org/RisingSeasStateData.
    Because persistent flooding can render neighborhoods, commercial districts, industrial zones, and recreational and other areas unusable, communities will face either major defense investments or the prospect of retreat from affected places. Many of these communities are home to people who have limited resources to move or adapt, the UCS pointed out.