Rain and Drains

Jenny Scarborough

The Stormwater Task Force will need to make hard decisions, said likely Chair Justin LeBlanc.

Almost 20 island residents turned up January 16 to begin the process. LeBlanc hopes the group will propose "actual solutions" and not spend its time re-hashing the problems. Representatives from the Planning Board, the Mosquito Control Board, the Sanitary District, OCBA and NCDOT were present.

The public is invited to the Community Center on Friday, January 17, at 9:30 am, when a supervisor and engineer from NCDOT's Manteo office will be available to hear concerns.

Rain and Drains

"It's not like we don't know where the major puddles are," said LeBlanc. He drove around in the rain on Tuesday and photographed 29 roads and intersections where water collects.

Some of those puddles will drain in the next few days, but the one in front of Secret Garden Gallery on Back Road "will be that deep next week," said James Barrie Gaskill.

"The roads are all basically a trough, and we're all guilty of raising our lots up," observed Rex O'Neal.

The first step the task force--so named because of the reluctance to create yet another committee on Ocracoke--will undertake is to assess the problem spots that can be helped by a scheduled resurfacing of some island roads in March. The March re-paving is being federally funded, and RPC Contracting, Inc. received the contract.

The federally funded project is "likely less flexible" than state funded ones, said Amy Johnson.

The NCDOT has worked with the mosquito control board in the past to address drainage issues while re-paving. The drains in the school and library parking lot on Back Road are an example of this collaboration. The DOT provided the labor and the Mosquito District paid for the materials.

Now is a good time to identify areas that only require a simple solution. "If there is low hanging fruit, let's identify it," said LeBlanc.

The DOT is prohibited from "hydrographically trespassing." That means DOT will not raise the road so that the water drains onto adjacent property.

"DOT has no right of way off the pavement," said Ocracoke maintenance worker Keith Gaskins, who noted that the shoulder inevitably gets restructured  during a resurfacing.

All Stormwater Task Force meetings are open to the public. The next one will be held Thursday, January 30, at 6 pm at the Community Center. The working group will elect a Chair and Vice Chair, report on what was learned from the DOT, and hopes to have a presentation from the most knowledgeable members of the community about how the existing system works.

The role of the task force is to examine all the available options before deciding how to move forward. Options including creating a Drainage District that levies a fee, or expanding the scope of existing entities, like the Mosquito Control Board or Sanitary District. Assessing solutions is not the same as endorsing them, emphasized LeBlanc.

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