Drainage Causes Concern In Fayetteville
Posted: February 1, 2014 at 5 a.m.
FAYETTEVILLE — City officials plan to start a million-dollar drainage project this year that’s been on the to-do list for at least a decade.
“If you want to look at and prioritize projects, this is the biggest one,” Chris Brown, city engineer, said Thursday. “It’s just something we haven’t been able to afford until now.”
The project, in the Washington-Willow neighborhood north of Lafayette Street and east of College Avenue, will divert stormwater from an undersized culvert that backs up in heavy rain.
Sections of the culvert are estimated to be at least 70 years old. In some places it’s a 4-foot-tall channel with stone walls on either side and nothing but soil underneath. In other places, it’s choked to a 30-inch-diameter pipe.
The drainage system runs under or near several houses on Maple Street and Walnut Avenue, making it difficult for city crews to remove brush and debris.
The culvert became especially clogged during April 2011 flooding. With nowhere else to go, water popped a manhole cover and poured into yards and multiple homeowners’ basements. What looked like a river rushed down Walnut Avenue.
Eden Reif, who lives at 607 N. Walnut Ave., remembered water up to the top step of her basement.
“To say that it was exciting would be an understatement,” Reif said Friday.
Reif, like other neighbors in the area, doesn’t know what to think about the upcoming project.
“We want to know what they’re planning before we just say, ‘Sure, go ahead,’” she said.
The city will have to acquire land from several property owners to make repairs, Brown said. Streets and sidewalks will be torn up, and longstanding trees may have to be uprooted.
According to preliminary designs, the new drainage system will direct water from a culvert on Olive Avenue, underneath Maple Street and Walnut Avenue and into Scull Creek on the south side of Rebecca Street — in Reif’s backyard.
Brown said a construction timeline isn’t set, but work should get under way sometime this year.
Residents are also concerned about a 60-foot section of Scull Creek on the west side of Walnut.
Engineering staff in January recommended removing the section of creek from the city’s protected streams map.
The map identifies streams with a watershed of at least 100 acres in Fayetteville. A range of activities, including grading, dredging and clearing of non-invasive woody vegetation, are prohibited within 50 feet of protected waterways, according to the streamside protection ordinance, which aldermen approved in March 2011.
Removing the section of creek from the protected streams map would allow Clay Morton to build a house close to the street on what for years has been a vacant lot at 517 N. Walnut Ave. Otherwise, the house would have to be set back at least 50 feet from the creek.
Morton said Thursday he’s wanted to build a house in the Washington-Willow neighborhood for years.
“My wife and I have always wanted to live down there,” he said.
Washington County property records show Morton purchased the 0.2-acre tract in November from Thomas and Mary Kennedy for $80,000. He then began clearing trees on what had been a heavily wooded property.
After a complaint from a neighbor who was aware of the streamside ordinance, city engineers sent Morton a letter warning him to stop clearing the land. Brown said the tree cutting continued, however, and another notice had to be issued Jan. 23. Morton was told he would need to reseed areas where the trees were removed. Brown said Morton won’t be allowed to build near the creek as long as it’s included on the protected streams map. Morton could be fined if he doesn’t mitigate damage that’s been done.
Chris Kaiser, who lives next door to Morton’s property, said Friday she’s opposed to any change to the protected streams map.
“I do not believe that sections of the map should be requested to be removed … just because a developer … might be inconvenienced by having to protect the streamside zone, especially when said developer has already denuded the lot he purchased in violation of the streamside ordinance,” Kaiser wrote.
Kaiser said the protected streams map shouldn’t be modified until city engineers have finalized the design for drainage repair and communicated their plan with neighbors.
Morton said he wasn’t aware of the restrictions on his land when he bought the property.
He said he’s designed two scenarios for the house he wants to build: one with the house close to the stream and aligned with his neighbor’s houses and one with the house farther back from the street.
Morton added the city’s drainage repair should ease flooding on Walnut.
“I feel confident from what I’ve seen of the plans that it’s going to resolve the issue,” he said.
City Council members are scheduled to consider removing the 60-foot section of Scull Creek from the protected streams map Feb. 18.
Go to the online version of this report at nwaonline.com to see a video of April 2011 flooding on Walnut Avenue.