January 29, 2006

Stormwater meeting

VA Pilot article about a recent meeting on stormwater issues on the Outer Banks. I am very sorry that I didn't go though I know would have been very frustrated after the meeting. First judging from both the VA Pilot article and the Coastland Times article some good points were made:
  • Stormwater is a primary source of pollution

  • DOT (roadway runoff) is the major contributor

  • Filling wetlands is not good practice

BUT The premise that there is a huge stormwater problem on the Outer Banks is just wrong. Storm water has 2 characteristics quantity and quality. We generally deal with quantity very well. There are a couple of exceptions like the area in Kitty Hawk near what was Friscos (now Sunburners). This area has not drained well since RT 158 was expanded to 5 lanes and the commercial sites were developed just to the west. Neither DOT or the Town of Kitty Hawk seem very interested in fixing it, even though it causes major problems during severe storm events and can cause traffic to back up even in small rainstorms. There are other trouble spots that need to be addressed but most of the northern beaches do not flood when it rains. There are problems every 10 years or so when we get exceptional rain events. The late summer of 2004 was such a year and that was the genesis for the CSI committee mentioned in the article. Understand that we cannot prepare the Outer Banks for 10+ inches of rainfall in 2 weeks. All the cisterns and rain gardens in the world won't deal with that much water. Luckily those events don't seem to happen very often maybe once every 10 years of so.
Quality is a different matter. Stormwater does contribute to coastal pollution but the runoff that does the most polluting is identified in the article: roads what the article doesn't tell you is that DOT is working on finding ways to remediate their stormwater outfalls. They have not released any plans yet but they have a working group and they have $money$. No one seems to want to give people who are trying to solve the issues credit.
The meeting seemed focussed on recommending fixes on residential property for what is really a commercial and DOT problem. Require stormwater retention for commercial projects and make DOT improve the effluent quality in the outfalls and a major part of the quality issue is resovled. Cisterns and water gardens will not make the beach road drivable after a hurricane or keep groundwater from surfacing in low lying areas of KDH.
Lets hope this group starts to build some credibility with local governments so they can do some good. Espousing residential solutions will not make an impact.


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