REPORT OF FLOODING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Many of you will recall that the HOA recently canvassed the neighborhood regarding flooding concerns after receiving several complaints. After receiving those reports, we then contacted the appropriate County authorities advised them of our findings and sought their input. In short, their response was disappointing but predictable. But I did ask for and I received an explanation of what specifically is the County’s responsibility, the City’s responsibility and the home-owner’s responsibility. Please see below my letter to John McCulloch, Program Manager Storm Water Operations for Mecklenburg County and his response. Everybody that experiences flooding should read this carefully and act accordingly.
Bob Hayes, President
Providence Plantation HOA
Dear Mr. McCulloch,
This is to follow up on our emails of last week. First, let me inform you that I found an Environmental Scientist and another highly knowledgeable person who live in our neighborhood that were willing to assist in our evaluation of the floodplains/wetlands. This weekend we walked much of the county owned floodplains/wetlands located within our neighborhood. Along the course of Four Mile Creek we saw some fallen trees, etc., which were probably the same ones your staff observed. Your promise to clean that up as soon as the weather permits is very much appreciated. Beyond that, we also walked areas that were pointed out by complaints from our neighbors. While some of these were on county owned property, they related to streams or creeks that feed into Four Mile Creek. Others were steams or creeks that also fed into Four Mile Creek, but they were on privately owned property, not county property.
All of this led to a discussion of responsibility for which I am now asking you for clarification. It is my understanding that if there is a blockage or some other problem on Four Mile Creek the County is responsible. But if the blockage occurs in the county owned floodplain/wetlands on some creek or stream that feeds into Four Mile Creek, and that blockage is causing a backup and flooding on residential property, who is responsible? And how should that problem be addressed? Also, many creeks in the neighborhood run through private property. If a blockage occurs in those areas, is it the homeowner’s responsibility to clear the blockage and/or otherwise repair the creek?
On these other creeks and streams, we observed many instances in which the creek banks seem so degraded that they are almost non-existent. Our Environmental Scientist explained that this was caused by sand and sediment settling on the creek bed, thus reducing the effective height of the banks, and that this is normal and natural. To the rest of us however it seems that is a condition that will result in flooding in every hard rain, as the increased water flow will always wash over the very minimal banks. This appeared to be a frequent problem. In some cases, the areas with minimal banks were on county owned property, but the resulting flooding spilled onto private property. Is there a fix for this other than the homeowner perhaps building a berm or retaining wall?
Finally, I have come to the conclusion that one of the most important things I, as the HOA President can do regarding this matter is to educate the homeowners. I would like to publish a detailed explanation of the situation and explain to everybody what is the county’s responsibility, what is the city’s responsibility, and what is the homeowner’s responsibility. Any guidance you can provide in this area will be most appreciated.
Bob Hayes, President
Providence Plantation HOA
—————————————————————————————————————————————————-Good afternoon Mr. Hayes,
Here are the responses to your questions regarding various responsibilities related to stream and storm water management.
Mecklenburg County Storm Water Responsibilities:
The County is responsible for maintaining flow in conveyances and floodplains that are regulated by FEMA. These are streams that we refer to as the “major system” and have drainage areas greater than one square mile (640 acres). Four Mile Creek, which flows through Providence Plantation, is a FEMA regulated stream. Frequent activities conducted by County Storm Water include: stream blockage removal and beaver management within FEMA regulated areas. In most cases, we try to access our work areas via existing rights of way such as sewer lines and other public easements. Occasionally, we do have to obtain Right of Entry agreements or temporary easements to access issues on private property.
It may be of interest to you that the Providence Nature Preserve adjacent to Providence Plantation is managed by Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation. Much of this area is impounded by beaver dams and regulated wetlands. We are not allowed to disturb these areas due to the regulatory protections.
Charlotte Storm Water Services responsibilities:
Non-FEMA regulated streams are referred to as the “minor system” and have drainage areas less than one square mile. Non-FEMA regulated streams also flow through Providence Plantation and are tributaries to Four Mile Creek. Maintenance responsibility for these streams falls primarily to the property owner. Some exceptions to this include:
- Charlotte Storm Water Services has a program to remove significant blockages that cause flood risks to public streets and to heated living spaces.
- If the stream is within a Charlotte Storm Water Services drainage easement, the City assumes some maintenance responsibility.
- Residents should call 311 to report drainage concerns and an inspector will determine if the concern meets program eligibility requirements.
Charlotte Storm Water Services agrees with the Environmental Scientist.
- A low creek bank is desirable in a healthy creek system. Healthy creeks should not be deep, channelized, or incised. A healthy creek overflows its banks several times a year and water spreads far and wide in flat areas. The creation of berms, walls, and the placement of fill dirt to alter this overflow disrupts the natural healthy creek flow, harms plant and animal habitats, is expensive and can have unintended consequences. Such practices are discouraged. These activities can result in flooding of upstream land owners and can cause excessive soil erosion from improperly placed fill dirt. Charlotte’s ordinances have been carefully written with this in mind and these activities are prohibited in many areas of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
- When woody vegetation is removed from the creek banks, or the natural flow of water is altered or rerouted, it can have a destabilizing effect on a healthy creek. When this happens, creek banks often scour away and erode, depositing silt and sediment downstream. The creek becomes very steep which is a characteristic of an unstable and unhealthy creek.
- Rainfall at the nearest rain gage location over the last 3 months (November-January) has totaled 14.47” (McKee Rd rain gage). A normal rainfall during this period is about 9.8”. This rain has saturated the soil so that each rain generates increased and immediate runoff. As a result, the amount of water in the creeks after a rainfall has increased and this is being noticed by residents Countywide.
Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.
John McCulloch, Program Manager
Storm Water Operations
5800 Rozzelle’s Ferry Road
Charlotte, NC 28214
Office: (980) 314-3288
Mobile: (980) 721-3760
Storm Water’s WHY statement: We are passionate about making our environment safe and healthy by reducing flood losses and improving water quality for all.