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September 26, 2013

Princeville flood plan nears completion

Not completely safe, but 'additional protection'

TARBORO — PRINCEVILLE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are closer to presenting a proposal that they believe will provide additional protection from future flooding on the Princeville side of the Tar River. Four members of the organization briefly went over the feasibility study during the town board of commissioners meeting Monday night.

"We're not saying that it going to protect you from everything, but it will provide additional protection," said Col. Steven Baker.

Pam Castens, project manager for the Corps’ Princeville Feasibility Study, said  "Updates and analyses have indicated that there is enough remaining flood risk that additional protective measures may be warranted. Reducing this remaining flood risk is what our study has focused on."

Casten said the study showed flood water from the Tar River backs up and flow around the south end of the dike. She said eventually the backup could cause flooding.

The study listed six options that could address the risk of flooding. They are:

1. Eliminate flood risk through acquisition of structures/properties and relocation of residents

2. Improve risk reduction by modification of the existing levee project

3. Raise and/or extend the existing dike.

4. Improve risk reduction by providing large-scale structural measures

5. Reduce flood risk by application of additional non-structural measures, including flood-proofing, flood warning and evacuations

6. Reconstruct the existing project to improve the stability and condition of the existing levee to bring it to current standards.

"I like to stress that this plan is only a proposal at this time and not set in stone," Casten said. "We have a lot of coordination yet to do with N.C. Department of Transportation, the state and the town and with local landowners.

The report will go through a public review including the Corps sponsoring a town hall forum in town to discuss the proposal.

Baker said his organization needs the approval of the town board and its citizens.

"We don't want to give you something that you don't want," Baker said.

The study was authorized in 2000, shortly after Hurricane Floyd when the Tar River crested 23 feet above flood level. Water covered the town for two weeks before receding. No lives were lost, however all but just a handful of citizens loss most of their belongings.

The dike was built in 1967 to prevent the town from the wrath of the Tar River flood waters. The large mound of dirt did its job until it was overcome by the rains before and during Hurricane Floyd.

Former Princeville Mayor James "Ed" Bridgers also attended the meeting. Bridgers was on the board of commissioners in 1967 when the dike was constructed. Repeated floods have wreaked havoc on the town since it was incorporated by freed slaves in 1885. Bridgers, who was a commissioner and then-Mayor Ray Mathewson fought tooth and nail to get the dike constructed. The large mounds of dirt that stretch five miles, sealed the town from the Tar River and did its job until 1999.

Bridgers asked the board to "be careful" when looking at the proposal. "We don't want them to put us in a bowl," he said.  

A timeline for the completion of the project has not been set. Casten said they would like to try to complete the report for public review by spring.

 

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