Grant tied to 2018 storm aids Litchfield stormwater project
Predictions of record flooding in Georgetown County as a result of Hurricane Florence in 2018 proved to be wildly exaggerated. But the storm has led to a wave of federal funding that will help complete a long-standing drainage project in the Litchfield area and free up funding for smaller projects.
“Litchfield has a series of four, five, six projects,” said Ray Funnye, the county director of Public Services. “We started at the low end.”
That was a project to rebuild a weir at Litchfield by the Sea to allow stormwater to drain into the north end of Clubhouse Creek. The county has been moving upstream to North Litchfield.
A $1.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will move the work west to improve the flow of stormwater under Highway 17 from Sandy Island Road to just north of Willbrook Boulevard.
“It always floods up there when you have gully-washers,” Funnye said.
There are only three pipes that carry stormwater under the highway. They are all 24 inches in diameter. The county proposes to replace those with two 36-inch pipes and one 42-inch pipe.
Those will carry stormwater from the area around Waccamaw Intermediate School, Retreat Park, Waccamaw Middle School and Sandy Island Road. They will also serve the commercial tracts along the highway.
Other improvements will improve the water flow through Flagg Pond at North Litchfield to Osprey Lake at Litchfield by the Sea. That will improve drainage in North Litchfield, where the county’s grant application notes there is an “under-designed drainage system.”
The county will contribute just over $860,000 to the $2.33 million project.
The federal funds will come through a flood hazard mitigation grant for which the county became eligible when a federal disaster was declared in September 2018.
A community development block grant of $939,529 will be used to improve drainage under Highway 17 just south of Willbrook Boulevard.
Like the area to the north, the highway in front of Mingo Pond is prone to flooding during a major storm.
“Mingo was just right there. That’s another problem area,” so it made sense to add it to the list of stormwater projects, Funnye said.
The grants, which were formally accepted by Georgetown County Council last week, come at a time when the county is reevaluating its stormwater projects in light of a watershed management plan for the Waccamaw Neck. That plan was completed earlier this year. While it was being developed, the county placed most of its stormwater projects on hold.
Funnye met this week with the consultants from the firm Thomas & Hutton who are helping align the stormwater projects with the watershed plan.
“We want to work smarter,” Funnye said. “Every person’s drainage problem is acute for them, but we have to look at it on a holistic basis.”
Access to grant funds should help the county work though its list of drainage projects more quickly, he said.
With the watershed plan complete and grants for Mingo Pond and a drainage project in the Andrews area, a project in Murrells Inlet would move from No. 5 to the top of the project list.
But that project is getting funding, too. State Rep. Lee Hewitt included $1.2 million in the state budget for the county to do work along Mallory Avenue and Wachesaw Road west of Bypass 17 that will tie in with a state Department of Transportation drainage project in the same area.
“The drainage is not sufficient to handle the stormwater runoff,” Hewitt said.
Part of the problem is that no one claims ownership of some existing ditches and pipes. Those will be relocated to the state right of way so they can be maintained.
“You’ve got all of this stuff that needs cleaning up,” Hewitt said. “You’ve got a lot of water going to places that can’t handle it.”
The county estimates that the project will improve the drainage for about 110 acres. It will also improve the quality of the water that eventually ends up in Murrells Inlet, according to the project narrative.
“It’s very important to Georgetown County to preserve the water quality of the Inlet for many years to come,” it states.
Hewitt said he has talked with the county administrator, Angela Christian, about getting state funds for other projects in the area.
“I’m just going to continue to work with the county,” he said.