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Currituck in Race Against Nature to Clear OBX Ditches

Currituck in race against nature to clear OBX ditches

By Cindy Beamon

The Daily Advance

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

CURRITUCK — Clearing ditches on the Outer Banks has turned out to be a race against nature for Currituck officials.

The county has sought to solve flooding problems on sand roads behind the dunes by clearing out drainage ditches.

That effort ran into a roadblock, however, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied permits for the work. The Corps decided three main ditches in Carova had returned to their “naturalized state” and were no longer eligible for clearing.

Currituck commissioners are now rushing to get permits for other ditches not yet in their “naturalized state” before it is too late.

The county has not yet budgeted the work at Carova and North Swan Beach. But county officials say they want the permits on hand to ensure they can clear the ditches when they get ready. The county plans to dig the ditches, left untended for years, to their original depths.

The drainage ditches are among several options the county is examining to alleviate flooding and puddling on roads like Sand Fiddler and Ocean Pearl. In many cases, the roads have become washboards riddled with potholes.

Commissioners have discussed creating a service district to fix the problem, but it remains unclear if residents would be willing to pay for a new stormwater drainage system. In the past, residents have shoveled sand from the roads to fill their lots, leaving potholes that some hoped would discourage traffic and development on the remote stretch of beach. Now some roads run lower than surrounding lots, making the roads catch-basins for storm run-off.

Commissioner Vance Aydlett, who owns a vacation home in Carova, said only the roads — not homes — flood, unless there’s a nor’easter with 20 or more inches of rain. Less rain can make roads impassable for a while, but residents on the remote stretch of beach have gotten used to the situation, he said.

“There’s a whole lot more to this issue than meets the eye,” said Aydlett.

Commissioner Paul O’Neal recently suggested fixing the roads behind the dunes to alleviate another problem in the four-wheel drive area — too much traffic on beaches during summer months. He said more traffic on roads behind the dunes would mean less traffic on the beach.. County officials have been studying safety issues in the off-road area, but have not acted on suggested changes so far.

Another study may also examine the problem with flooding roads.

County Manager Dan Scanlon said the county plans to conduct a study to examine the impact of future growth in the area designated by the federal government as a COBRA zone. The designation makes homeowners ineligible for federal flood insurance as a way of discouraging growth in areas it deems unsuitable for development.

Despite the designation, development appears to be pushing its way northward to the off-road area. Some officials have predicted that construction of a mid-county bridge would add pressure for more growth.

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