PENDER COUNTY — The county has received rare approval for U.S. Department of Agriculture funding through its Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program to repair stream embankments and remove fallen trees.
Through the federal agency’s Natural Resource Commission Service (NRSC) office in Raleigh, 25 sites in the county’s coastal region have been approved for $608,815 of grant funding for damages related to Hurricane Florence.
Areas in Hampstead and Rocky Point were first to receive funding because state engineers from the N.C. Soil and Water Conservation office in Burgaw submitted damage survey reports for those areas before areas further west in the county, according to Pender Planning Director Kyle Breuer.
“It’s anticipated that additional sites will become eligible around Currie and Atkinson,” according to a report from Breuer’s office.
Breuer was notified of the funding approval in mid-October.
A total of 50 sites throughout the county are awaiting final survey reports in order to receive funding. If the remaining sites are approved and are on par with the initial 25 sites, the total project would include roughly $1.2 million in federal and state funding.
The EWP program takes emergency measures to protect communities from imminent threats to lives and property from floods and other natural disasters that damage watersheds. Such measures include purchasing floodplain easements, removing trees and other debris from stream channels and road culverts or bridges, reshaping and protecting eroded streambanks, and repairing damaged drainage facilities.
“A majority of the work identified so far in Pender includes debris removal and streambank restoration,” according to the report.
Through the EWP program, the USDA funds 75 percent of the program while the state picks up the remaining 25 percent. The county will be reimbursed for all costs associated with the project.
Breuer said the county hadn’t received EWP funding in recent years.
“From my understanding, EWP funding has not been available in prior storms,” Breuer said Monday morning. “This is the first time we’ve seen it — certainly the first time I’ve seen it — in quite some time.”
The county, which is acting as the project’s sponsor, is looking to hire the national engineering consultancy firm Ardurra to help implement the project. County commissioners will vote tonight to establish the grant agreement, approve a contract with Ardurra, and sign off on a payment of $85,115 for the firm to complete the project’s scope of work. A total of $152,203 is budgeted for development and management costs while the remaining $456,611 is budgeted for construction costs.
Ardurra’s work would include identifying additional sites that are potentially eligible for funding, serving as the county’s liaison to the NRCS office in Raleigh, preparing damage survey reports and grant requests, and collecting bids for construction.
Most of the work will focus on the restoration and stabilization of streambanks that experienced erosion from floodwaters caused by Florence — by using supportive techniques like stone or rock ripraps — and the removal of tree debris still blocking culverts and exasperating flooding issues in the identified areas, according to Breuer.
One site that will receive funding is in the Rocky Point-Long Creek area, which is allocated $105,000 to “return the stream flow to the pre-storm condition by removing downed trees and other debris from in and over the stream channel.”
Other sites will receive funding to repair roads and culverts completely damaged by Florence.
Ardurra’s post-disaster recovery work is extensive, including projects in Pender County, New Hanover County, and Craven County after Hurricane Florence; the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey; New York after Hurricane Sandy; Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina; and Colorado after the 2013 Colorado Front Range Flood.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815