Friday, August 3, 2012
More than 3.5 inches of rain fell in a short period of time in the City of Georgetown Monday causing another round of flooding problems.
Several streets had to be blocked off because of floodwaters and traffic was detoured through the city’s West End and other areas until the water finally cleared by Monday afternoon.
At least three cars were damaged due to the floodwaters.
Jeepy Ford, a local resident and business owner who has been battling the city over flooding problems for many years, said even though the $14 million drainage project is still not complete, steps could have been taken by the city to prevent some of the flooding.
Ford says when the steel mill was built next to the Sampit River in the late 1960s, it was “the beginning of the end of Downtown Georgetown.”
Ford, who spoke with the Georgetown Times Monday, says when the mill was built it blocked the natural drainage that had directed the water to the river.
“The city gave away its right of way except for a 15-foot ditch to drain 165 acres. That’s what they call the City Hall basin,” Ford said.
He said there are several ‘flappers’ that are supposed to keep water from flowing back from the river during heavy rain events but the flapper inside the steel mill “is so out of shape it’s rusted shut and does not work.”
Lane Mixon, head of the city’s water utilities, said the drainage project is now expected to be complete in mid-December, about two weeks after the end of the 2012 hurricane season.
Until the new system is operational, Mixon said there is no guarantee the area will not flood again.
However, Ford said he is not sure the flooding will stop even after the new drainage system is in place. That’s because the new pumps will pump water up the hill and “around the dam called the steel mill, and into the river.”
He said the only way the new drainage system will work is if the pipes are cleaned and the pumps are maintained.
“And I have absolutely no faith in that,” he said.
Mixon said the new system is expected to handle what is known as a “50 year flood” which is about 9.8 inches of rain in a 24-hour period.
Right now, the bigger pipes under U.S. Highway 17 — part of the new drainage system — are being used but they are draining into the smaller pipes downstream that go under Front Street and through the steel mill. Once the retention pond next to City Hall is complete, only the bigger pipes will be used.
This is the big drainage project but other smaller drainage systems have been installed through the years in the city.
Mixon said a drainage project took place along Meeting Street in the late 1990s which has helped that area to the Sampit River.
In 2002, the Hawkins Street project took place to help the area of Hawkins Street from Merriman Road to the west end of Hawkins.
By Scott Harper