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N.C. County Introduces Plan to Curb Chronic Flooding

July 31, 2008

By Jeff Hampton, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Jul. 31–COROLLA — Currituck County may pump water to a soundside pond to help relieve chronic flooding in Corolla’s Whalehead Beach community.

County and state officials have repeatedly debated how best to remedy environmental messes created by flooding. Located near the Currituck Sound, the county owns property along parts of the pond, said county manager Dan Scanlon. Other sections are owned by Food Lion or fall within the Corolla Bay subdivision property, he said. The county hopes to negotiate easements to the entire pond, but it is not necessary, he said.

Over the years, Whalehead Beach has increasingly flooded as new homes and pavement covered sandy lots. In 2006, a rainstorm, followed by Tropical Storm Ernesto, swamped homes and streets with water contaminated by septic tanks and household hazardous waste. Pumps siphoned untreated water into the ocean for days.

Expected to cost about $4 million, plans are to lower the water table with pumps and a system of underground pipes that would empty into the pond. A lower water table would allow more of the surface flood waters to settle through the sand more quickly.

The project would also include shallow basins dug out on some east-west streets in the Whalehead Beach community. Asphalt on the streets would be removed. Boardwalks would allow a walking path from homes to the ocean. Covered in natural vegetation, the basins would help collect the flood waters during storms. Otherwise, they would remain dry.

Residents protested that the county was not doing enough to relieve flooding in a neighborhood that provided a large portion of the property taxes.

Last year, the county hired engineering firm Moffatt & Nichol to come up with a solution, even if it cost millions of dollars.

More than 800 property owners in the Whalehead Beach drainage district are charged an additional 4 cents for every $100 of property value, raising about $356,000 annually to help pay for the project. The current property tax rate in Currituck is 32 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Construction is expected to begin after the summer tourist season.

Jeff Hampton, (252) 338-0159, jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com

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