About 100 local and county officials from several counties, emergency management, and representatives from three congressional offices met at the Woodmen Community Center to conduct a Neuse River Basin roundtable and discuss solutions from building a dam to cleaning debris from the Neuse River.
Michael A. Sprayberry, director of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management, said the ideas from the dicussion would be used to help create a Neuse River Basin Plan.
“We’re working together to try to harvest ideas, work as a group with one voice to try to implement some good strategies to deal with the flooding,” Sprayberry said. “There’s already some dredging going on in some counties but I think what we want to do it craft a plan. But I will tell you there is no one solution. There’s going to be many different courses of action that we take to craft an overarching solution, and it’s not going to happen immediately.”
Sprayberry said Hurricane Matthew provided an impetus to start focusing on a solution.
“But I would like to say the leadership of Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy – he’s so energetic and motivated and solutions oriented and so I think that his leadership has really help us focus on this,” he said.
Murphy said he was very pleased with the response and pro-activeness from state partners, emergency management, environmental quality and Lenoir County emergency services when responding to flooding caused by the Neuse River, like before and after Hurricane Matthew last year.
“What we understand is there will be another hurricane,” Murphy said. “There will be another flood and there’s a bigger challenge in reducing the next hurricane’s or flood’s impact on our region than it is to dole money out for flood relief. It’s a much bigger challenge, much bigger task.”
Thursday’s meeting was the beginning of facing those challenges, Murphy said.
“That coalition is what’s going to carry this ball and actually move it forward to have true flood prevention,” he said.
The solution could come in several forms, from building a dam, a dry retention pond, snagging and dragging the river to clean it out or even helping Raleigh with its water supply challenges, Murphy said.
“It’s going to be an all-of-the-above-approach,” he said. “Not one of them is going to be the super bullet to make this work.”
The Army Corps Engineers, which had representatives at the meeting, will be essential to any solution, Murphy said.
But it will take congressional support to fund a Neuse River Basin Study for the Army Corps of Engineers to work on a project, he said.
There has been Neuse River Basin studies done in the past, one in 1965 and a couple since then, leaning more toward an environmental focus, Murphy said.
The new study will have to focus on infrastructure, like a dam, or other ways of dealing with the tremendous volume of water and not necessarily focus on impacts to animal habits. That study has been done. The focus now should be on the flooding impacts to homes and businesses, Murphy said.
“The question is how much does it cost us to study and fund and implement the appropriate changes ahead of the next major disaster versus the cost of doling out money to say we’re sorry this happen to you,” he said.
Gifton Mayor Billy Ray Jackson said his town, which is at the confluence of the Neuse River and Contentnea Creek, has had its share of flooding and the drainage problems have got to be corrected.
“We get flooded,” he said. “We had Floyd. It was devastating. Then there was Irene and Matthew. We’ve really got to get together, everybody who is touched by those two bodies of water, and see what we can do. I don’t know if we can eliminate it, but maybe lighten up the problem a little bit would be a big help.”
Jackson said he wants to hear from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“And what I would like to hear from them is that these bodies of waters that have been neglected for so long could be dredged,” he said.
Rest assured that the movement we’ve started discussing options for flood prevention has already reached the halls of Congress. We are building a coalition along the Neuse River Basin to ensure this conversation is happening with our Federal and State Leaders. Here’s a story from yesterday’s meeting with US Senator Thom Tillis and NC House Majority Leader Representative John R. Bell, IV.
“A member of North Carolina’s federal delegation was in Kinston Thursday to talk flood relief.
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis met with business owners, city officials and county officials from Kinston, Goldsboro, Seven Springs and Greenville to discuss how flood relief efforts are progressing six months after Hurricane Matthew.”
Six months ago today, I left the house about 4pm to pick up a sappy movie for my wife at the Redbox, then I would swing by the Kinston Public Services operations center to say thanks to our employees working the 24 hour service calls through the heavy rain, and off to the Kinston Department of Fire and Rescue to say hello to Chief Crawford. You see the spaghetti model shown was the projected path of #HurricaneMatthew as of 6:51 am. One of the other pictures I took was in front of Bojangles on Vernon Avenue at 2:30 am the next morning…amazed at the number of abandoned cars. Little did we know the true path, the amount of rain from Raleigh to the coast, and the number of lives that would be lost.
I never made it to the fire station as we opened our Emergency Operations Center around 5:00 pm, effectively calling a curfew for our 21,000 citizens. As I watched our Kinston Police Department, Fire, and Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Dept. professionals literally triage over 300 rescue operations in Kinston alone, it became apparent that the City of Kinston employees are some of the finest in the country. And, that we work with the best and brightest at Lenoir County Emergency Services, Lenoir County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, NC Emergency Management, and North Carolina National Guard.
Because of their tireless bravery and training many lives were spared.
Our Planetarium hosted their first school group this week nearly 6 months after #HurricaneMatthew. Very thankful for all the volunteers who helped us replace floors, scrub displays, paint and more. See some of the results for yourself in this video and then stop by soon!
WITN Anna Phillips
April 6 at 10:10pm ·
The Neuseway Nature Park’s Planetarium & Science Museum reopened on Wednesday and the Nature Center should be ready by May. Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Dept. staff have been working alongside community volunteers for months… as local leaders like Mayor BJ Murphy and Neuse Sport Shop President & CEO Russell Rhodes work to get legislators talking about how to minimize future flood risk.
Happy to announce that the City Government of Goldsboro, NC has also adopted a Flood Prevention Resolution for the Lower Neuse River Basin in addition to the City of Kinston and Lenoir County. Mayor Chuck Allen and his team showed strong leadership during Hurricane Matthew and I’m honored to serve alongside him.
“All we’re asking of our state and federal legislators is let’s have some serious discussions on what the options could be whether we like them or not. And then let’s put a price tag and let’s figure out what’s the best route to go,” said Mayor BJ Murphy.
Very productive meeting with NC House Majority Leader John Bell, Deputy Senate Pro Tem Louis Pate, and Representative George Graham. Also, had a great meeting with Don Davis. We discussed multiple issues including the Neuse River Basin, a revolving loan pool to facilitate more dilapidated housing demolition, the future of the NC Global TransPark, and more. We are very lucky in Kinston and Lenoir County to have this group working on our behalf!
Dredging, Snag & Drag, Building a Dam, Reviewing Raleigh’s Water Supply, and Considering Options for NCDOT Runoff will all be discussed today in the halls of the North Carolina General Assembly.