SILER CITY — Members of the Loves Creek Watershed Stewards group, continuing to address the problem of flooding within the watershed, convened last week to discuss future potential actions that …
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SILER CITY — Members of the Loves Creek Watershed Stewards group, continuing to address the problem of flooding within the watershed, convened last week to discuss future potential actions that could help mitigate the ongoing concern, including potentially buying out and relocating businesses within the flood-prone area.
Representatives of organizations including the Town of Siler City, N.C. State, the Piedmont Conservation Council and Biocenosis, all aiming to address Loves Creek flooding, convened last Thursday in downtown Siler City’s Peppercorn Restaurant to discuss their work.
The Loves Creek watershed, which lies within the larger Rocky River watershed, encompasses eight square miles and comprises approximately 400 acres. Downtown Siler City lies completely within the Loves Creek watershed and more than 200 residents live within it.
For decades, flooding has presented a problem in the area, illustrated perhaps most dramatically by periodic flooding of Park Shopping Center, whose paved parking lot has suffered extensive water damage in recent years.
To help reduce flooding and better protect the watershed, the Loves Creek Stewards have identified a number of approaches, from doing nothing to buyout and relocation of businesses — Piggly Wiggly, Park Shopping Center and Southern States — existing within in the problem area.
Sarah Waickowski with N.C. State’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, who has been working with the Loves Creek Stewards, presented to the group an update on the Park Shopping Center Restoration Study.
The study, currently in draft form, isolates five potential scenarios for restoration and stormwater control measures in the watershed, including doing nothing. Waickowski noted the advantages to this scenario include no restoration or construction costs; continuous use of existing businesses by the public; and no construction zones preventing public activity.
But the “do nothing” approach is not recommended because nuisance flooding will continue and most likely worsen as the watershed is developed; the economic vitality of the commercial area would likely decline severely; and hazardous conditions could jeopardize public safety.
Waickowski said a more “hot topic” approach would be buyout and relocation of existing businesses. The engineer said this approach could be “controversial because people don’t want to move.”
As outlined in the draft report, the “buyout and relocation” option has the advantage of reconnecting the waterway to the flood plane; increases public safety; improves water quality and habitat and creates opportunity to develop in-town green space. Disadvantages outlined for this scenario include relocation costs and loss of walkable shopping and commercial area for local residents with transportation issues.
Similar buyouts have, however, occurred in other locations, including a City of Charlotte buyout program which has, since 1999, purchased more than 400 flood-prone houses, apartment buildings and businesses in flood planes throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.
An additional approach to the problem outlined in the study is employing a combination of stormwater control measures to retrofit commercial, public and residential properties, which has the advantage of being a holistic watershed approach that can be implemented as funding is obtained. This would reduce localized flooding, but not eliminate ongoing flooding problems at Piggly Wiggly and Park Shopping Center.
The discussion will continue later this year when the Loves Creek Watershed Stewards conduct their next quarterly meeting on Nov. 7.
Randall Rigsbee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.