SHORT HISTORY OF FLOODWATER MANAGEMENT IN OCEAN SANDS & CROWN POINT

This is for those of you who may be new to the community, or want a refresher on stormwater and flood mitigation in Ocean Sands and Crown Point.  You can find tons of historical background information on the initiative to solve the flooding problem in the “FILES” on our closed Facebook page “Corolla Stormwater” 

If you don’t do Facebook, can find the info at:  http://oshoa.org/category/flooding/

We have a Service District (an official unit of County government) that manages all matters related to flooding and flood mitigation.  The geographical boundaries of the service district include Ocean Sands North, Crown Point and certain areas adjacent to Crown Point and on the west side of Route 12 across from sewer plant.  As such, the Ocean Sands and Crown Point POA’s are not involved in flood mitigation except to the extent they may encourage practices that help the flooding situation, such as rain gardens, swales, and permeable surfaces.

1973 – 2013.   For the first 40 years that Coastland was in control of Ocean Sands, nothing was done (or required) about the flooding problem.    As more properties were developed, Rt. 12 was paved, the Harris Teeter went in, etc., the problem became progressively worse because we sit in a “bowl” between the dunes and Rt. 12..  For a summary of problem, see:  http://oshoa.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/FINAL-Stormwater-Presentation-4.6.16.pdf

2014 – Community Demands that Flooding be Addressed. The community resolved to form a “stormwater committee” at the 2014 Annual Meeting.  Starting in May 2014 a committee of 14 homeowners in Ocean Sands and Crown Point, several Coastland participants and Eric Weatherly, the County Engineer, met monthly to develop a plan to solve the community’s flooding problem.  The mission & key objectives of the Stormwater Committee were as follows:

  • First, to determine the reasons why our two Northern Outer Banks communities are experiencing the levels and constancy of floods.
  • Second, to identify any potential solutions that address all aspects – topographic, land use, regulatory, technical, fiscal, as well as political constraints.
  • Third, to determine the optimal resolution which takes into account the cost and financing aspects, the engineering challenges, government regulations and the needs of all constituencies.
  • Fourth, provide property owners with a full understanding of all aspects of this very complex yet recurring multi-community problem.

The engineering firm of Moffatt & Nichols was hired to do a feasibility study, which was presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting, outlining options for flood mitigation systems and potential costs.  This study was paid for using your homeowner dues; Coastland bore none of the costs.  Link to M&N study:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/jj7hit87knz84o6/20150615%20OCEAN%20SANDS%20FINAL%20REPORT.pdf?dl=0

As the ensuing months went by, it became clear to the homeowner committee members that Coastland was unwilling to move forward to solve the problem as it continued to stall on all issues and wouldn’t even commit to granting access to open space for system construction.  The homeowner members continued to send out numerous educational e-mails and determined that the only way to solve the problem was to work around Coastland and develop a plan to obtain owner buy-in to support the creation of a governmental service district.  The committee even did a YouTube video to “sell” the service district approach. https://vimeo.com/161797335?utm_source=email&utm_medium=vimeo-cliptranscode-201504&utm_campaign=29220

2016 – Formation of “Stormwater” Service District.  A “tax service district” is a subdivision of County government created at the request of affected property owners and administered publicly by the County Commissioners sitting as the Board of the Service District, with guidance and input from an advisory board consisting of property owners. This is the same way the Ocean Sands Water & Sewer District operates.  Another way to think of it is as a vehicle to raise funds to pay for the studies, design, construction, and ongoing operation and maintenance of the flood mitigation system.  The taxes are added to your property tax bill.  County professionals manage the long-term operation and maintenance of the system once it is constructed.  This is what the Whalehead community has done to mitigate their flooding.

Barbara Marzetti took the lead in orchestrating a survey via SurveyMonkey to measure community support for the service district (thanks to the Governance Committee for use of its email list) and in presenting the case to the Commissioners at the Public Hearing.  Other key presenters at the hearing were Ed Pence, Linda Garczynski and Gerri Adams.  Braxton Hill represented Coastland in opposition to formation of the district.  Following the testimony, the Commissioners voted unanimously to form the district, with one of the Commissioners commenting to Braxton Hill: “Coastland has had 40 years to do something about the problem and has done absolutely nothing.”

The Ocean Sands North and Crown Point Service District for Watershed Improvement was thus established by Currituck County in May 2016, effective July 1, 2016.  A citizen Advisory Board was appointed by the County Commissioners.  The current members are Ed Pence, Barbara Marzetti, Gerri Adams, Linda Garczynski, Al Marzetti, and Bryan Daggett (short bios can be found on the oshoa.org site).  Braxton Hill, representing Coastland, was originally on the Advisory Board but resigned.

In July 2016, the Advisory Board sent out a Request for Qualifications to over 30 Engineering firms.  After a rigorous vetting process, 3 firms were chosen to interview with the Advisory Board on September 9, 2016 and Albemarle & Associates, Ltd. of Kitty Hawk, NC was selected to do the “Phase 1” work, which included completion of the necessary hydrology testing, assistance in the development of an Emergency Pumping Plan, development of a Report providing recommendations for stormwater management (i.e., Conceptual System Design) and recommendations for potential “quick hit” actions that could be taken to help alleviate the problem while the overall system was being constructed.

2017 – Hydrology Testing, Coastland Lawsuit and Development of Emergency Pumping Plan.  The Advisory Board put in countless hours of work on the Emergency Pumping Plan, which was completed in September 2017 and submitted to the NC Department of Environmental Quality for approval.  While formal approval is still pending, the State indicated that the Plan could be used while approval was pending.  As such, it was used for these current storms and greatly accelerated the time needed to obtain a permit to pump floodwater to the ocean.  Note that Emergency Pumping is designed to pump out streets and not water under every home.  It is not a substitute for a comprehensive flood mitigation system and, it is extremely expensive Hydrology testing began in late 2016 and extended into 2017 due to the need to obtain groundwater data over a 12 – 18 month period.  This could be accomplished only because of the cooperation of numerous homeowners who allowed piezometers and test wells to be placed in their yards, as Coastland refused to grant access to open space for this purpose.  Luckily, Crown Point had already broken free of Coastland control, as use of Crown Point open space was crucial to this process.

Shortly after formation of the Service District, Coastland filed a lawsuit against the County claiming that the formation of the service district was invalid, demanding that its undeveloped properties be excluded from the service district and demanding damages for being included (i.e., reimbursement of the very nominal taxes that Coastland must pay).  A Court has already ruled that formation of the service district was valid, but the other claims still remain outstanding.

2018 – Albemarle & Associates Report & Recommendations.  The Report & Recommendations for Stormwater Management has been completed in draft and Albemarle & Associates is currently addressing comments from the Advisory Board and the County Engineer.  It is expected that the Report will be finalized in August of this year.  In very general terms, the Report recommends pump stations be strategically located throughout the community (based on the results of the hydrology testing) with variable speed pumps that can be fine-tuned to maintain groundwater at optimum levels.  Each of the pump stations would be fed by 5 to 7 shallow wells connected to the pump and interconnected to an underground conveyance system.  In advance of a major storm, the pumps could be “cranked up” to further lower groundwater so as to allow for greater soil absorption capability.  Ultimately, the water stormwater/groundwater would be discharged into Currituck Sound in a permitted fashion.  Once the report is finalized, we will have a better idea of potential system costs and tax rate impacts.

Following finalization of the Report & Recommendations, normally we would immediately proceed to the Detailed Engineering Design phase.  However, at this time, no further progress can be made as Coastland’s lawsuit is still pending and Coastland hasn’t granted access to its open space and undeveloped properties for system construction.  We believe that a solid case has been presented to Coastland as to why it makes economic sense for Coastland to cooperate in the development of a global solution.  We are hopeful that Coastland sees the merits and advantages of this global system (e.g., development of Section G cannot happen without flood mitigation and a stand-alone system for Section G is not viable) and will be able to sort out its issues with the County in the near future.  This can be a win-win for everybody.  We are optimistic that Coastland will get on board but, until they do, we are stymied from making any future progress.

Once again, more details can be found on the ‘Corolla Stormwater’ Facebook Page and at http://oshoa.org/category/flooding/

If you have further questions please direct them to the Advisory Board at: OceanSandsStormwater@gmail.com

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