Flooding in Siler City’s Loves Creek watershed isn’t a new problem, but ongoing efforts — in both the public and private sectors — are aimed at mitigating issues associated with the urban watershed.
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SILER CITY — Flooding in Siler City’s Loves Creek watershed isn’t a new problem, but ongoing efforts — in both the public and private sectors — are aimed at mitigating issues associated with the urban watershed.
A dozen representatives of organizations including the Town of Siler City, N.C. State, the Piedmont Conservation Council and Biocenosis, all sharing the common goal of addressing Loves Creek flooding, convened Monday morning around a large table in downtown Siler City’s Peppercorn Restaurant to discuss their progress and the next steps in working to resolve the decades-old issue.
Early in the discussion, a copy of an article from a 1970 edition of The Chatham News with the headline “Shopping center seeks relief from flooding” was circulated among the group. Nearly 50 years old now, the article noted concerns from residents and business owners that as areas west of Park Shopping Center off Raleigh Street were developed, the shopping center was bearing the brunt. One business owner quoted in the 1970 article said he wasn’t so concerned about flooding “last week” or the next, but about larger problems looming in the more distant future.
“Unless something is done soon,” Siler City business owner Grady Renn said at the time, “we will eventually lose our buildings.”
More recent history — like the condition of the Park Shopping Center parking lot in the aftermath of heavy rain left by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 — proves those concerns weren’t unfounded.
Jack Meadows, the Town of Siler City’s planning director, said the lot, with its broken chunks of asphalt that once were parking spaces, looks like a “war zone.”
To address the parking lot’s needs, work crews last week began, at the expense of the shopping center’s owner, to remove not only the damaged asphalt but also to replace an old, now-compromised culvert with a new four-foot culvert that should better facilitate stormwater drainage in the highly flood-prone area.
Shahnaz Ahmed, who owns the shopping center, is footing the expense for the improvements with what Meadows called “a substantial investment.”
The entire Loves Creek watershed, which lies within the Rocky River watershed, encompasses eight square miles and comprises approximately 400 acres. Downtown Siler City lies completely within the Loves Creek watershed.
“We’re not looking at a huge area here,” said Grace Messinger of Piedmont Conservation Council, one of the groups working to resolve Loves Creek issues.
But rain is “going to keep coming,” she said, “and it’s not going to get better on its own.”
While Park Shopping Center is the epicenter for flood waters in the Loves Creek watershed, efforts to address the watershed-wide problem should ideally involve numerous approaches to the problem, even at the residential level, members of the group agreed.
“There are quite a few things all of us can do,” Meadows said.
To help reduce flooding and protect the watershed, those things include reducing building within floodplains, conserving water, capturing runoff in cisterns or rain barrels, and avoiding dumping anything (used auto oil, for example) down storm drains.
Moving forward, the group known as the Loves Creek Watershed Stewards is continuing to seek more grant funds and address problems within the watershed in a variety of ways and through various projects.
They include recent improvements at Boling Lane Park, across the street from and nearby Park Shopping Center, which has two stormwater wetlands and a creek buffer to help reduce flooding and provide a habitat for plants and animals. The group is also working on restoring the urban tributary of Loves Creek and its floodplain, creating downtown greenspace.
An April 13 stream clean-up is planned within the watershed area, particularly around Park Shopping Center. The event is organized by the Loves Creek Watershed Stewards as part of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s annual Litter Sweep event.