SWANSBORO | The Town of Swansboro is taking steps to formally address a problem that has polluted area waters and causes flooding after heavy rains: stormwater runoff.
At the heart of the effort is a draft Comprehensive Watershed Restoration Plan that is being finalized and will go to the town commissioners for approval later this month. After it receives town approval, it will be forwarded to state and federal agencies for approval.
The town established a stormwater management enterprise fund this fiscal year to help cover the cost of stormwater and drainage issues in the town and also saw an opportunity to partner with the North Carolina Coastal Federation to develop an overall plan to address the issue, said Town Manager Scott Chase.
“What we want to try to do is make sure we are not sending anymore pollutants than necessary into our water bodies,” Chase said.
The town hosted a presentation on the watershed plan during a community meeting Monday night.
Town Commissioner Frank Tursi, who recently retired from duties with the Coastal Federation, said stormwater runoff has increased over the years as the coastal landscape of sandy soils and plants that once absorbed rain has been replaced by impervious surfaces from roads, driveways and other development.
The rainwater that pours off rooftops and down gutters, into streets and storm drains, makes its way into the river, picking up animal waste, fertilizers, motor oil and other pollutants.
“It has been going on for decades and as a result, two-thirds of the shellfish beds in the White Oak River are now polluted and can’t be used,” Tursi said.
Along with impacting water quality, the stormwater runoff results in street flooding after heavy rains in the town.
While not a new issue, having a comprehensive plan in place will provide a formal look at the problem, identifying the primary sources of stormwater runoff within the town and outlining potential solutions.
Having a plan in place will also put the town in position to potentially receive federal funding for projects to implement goals and objectives of the plan.
While Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant funding has been frozen by the Trump administration, Tursi said the EPA has normally makes funds available to local governments each year to address water pollution issues.
The town’s watershed plan meets the criteria to receive funding.
The plan looks at ways to reduce the volume of stormwater runoff within the town through implementing a variety of measures by the town and voluntary steps by private property owners, such as creating rain gardens, using rain barrels to catch and re-use rain water, and re-routing downspouts to green space rather than sending water down driveways.
“The hope is all these little solutions can have a big impact,” said Mariko Polk of the Coastal Federation.
The draft Comprehensive Watershed Restoration Plan can be viewed on the town’s website.