River flooding affecting some work on Water Street in downtown Wilmington

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Portions of Water Street at the intersection with Market was flooded last Sunday morning. (Photo by Hannah Leyva.)
Portions of Water Street at the intersection with Market Street were flooded last Sunday morning. (Photo by Hannah Leyva.)

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington was spared the worst of the flooding from Hurricane Matthew, but receding floodwaters from further up in the Cape Fear River Basin have caused some problems in the downtown Riverwalk area.

During high tides this past week, the Cape Fear River has overflowed onto Water Street, particularly between Dock and Grace Streets. A good portion of that area is currently a construction zone, as city crews are working on the Water Street Improvement Plan and renovations to Riverfront Park.

Due to the daily flooding that has occurred this week, work on those projects has been put on hold, according to Dylan Lee of the City of Wilmington’s Communications Office.

“This is basically on hold,” said Lee, who said the flooding on Monday afternoon was “worse than during the storm.”

Prior to Matthew’s arrival, city officials were already worried about that specific stretch of Water Street between Market and Grace streets. A bulkhead along the riverfront that collapsed due to heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hermine, which hit the area the first weekend of September, and Mayor Bill Saffo voiced concerns about “possibly catastrophic” damage from the hurricane.

“We have significant concerns that we can lose more of [the riverfront],” Saffo said a few days before Matthew’s arrival. “If it gets really bad, we could lose it up to the street.”

While those concerns fortunately did not come to pass, it remains to be seen what damage, if any, the continual high tide flooding could cause for that area.

Just a couple blocks north of the Water Street Improvement Project, work is also ongoing at the site of the Water Street parking deck. The structure will be demolished in December to make way for a multi-use high-rise development, but before that happens, city crews must lay down utilities for the project.

While the parking deck is set further back from the river than the street and park renovations, the rising water has also affected work there.

“[The] Water Street deck work isn’t flooded, but it is slowed a little due to the difficulty accessing the site,” Lee said.

The utility work at the site, which started in September, is expected to be completed in late November.

Parts of inland New Hanover County, including the downtown area by the Cape Fear River, has been under a coastal flood advisory for much of the week. Roads leading to the Battleship North Carolina on the other side of the river have also experienced flooding this week during high tides.