Property owners blamed for some Carter County flooding

John Thompson • Jul 9, 2013 at 11:59 AM

ELIZABETHTON — It has been a rainy first half of 2013, but Monday’s meeting of the Carter County Highway Committee indicates recent flooding problems are being caused by property owners diverting water on their downstream neighbors.

As has been the case in many of the committee’s meetings lately, it was not roads, but drainage problems that dominated the discussions.

Several residents of Brown’s Branch appeared before the committee to discuss the recent flooding in that neighborhood and the large amount of rocks and boulders left behind when the waters receded.

One resident, Zane Church, said boulders and tires had been washed downstream and broke through his fence.

Church said there never was a problem in that area until a neighbor replaced an old wooden bridge on his driveway across the stream with an 18-inch tile. He said the tile is too small to carry the water during storms, causing flooding.

Another neighbor, Paul Campbell, agreed. He said all of the flooding on that end of the community is being caused by that one tile.

The problem for the Highway Department is that the tile is on private property. Department Supervisor Slim Miller said “you have a bunch of citizens who don’t want it touched (because it is on private property).”

Highway Committee Chairman Joel Street suggested the county would be willing to install a larger tile if the property owner agrees to buy it. The estimated cost of the tile is $1,200. If the property owner would not buy the tile, Street asked Church if he and other neighbors would be willing to purchase the tile. Church declined, saying he already has a large expense cleaning up from the flooding.

Campbell said it would make sense for the county to pay for the tile, since the county was already paying more than that every time the Highway Department has to clean up the rocks and debris from the roads and ditches. He said the water was also damaging the road.

The committee was concerned about setting precedents.

Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins said the county has submitted an application for a federal natural resources grant. He said the application is based on several areas where drainage problems are undercutting utility poles and other problems.

Perkins said he will use county money to make repairs if the federal grant is not approved. Campbell asked how long approval would take. There was no answer.

Another Brown’s Branch resident, Juanita Miller, said she has lived on her property for more than 70 years and never seen the floodwaters so high. She said neighbors are contributing to the problem by replacing their old wooden bridges on their driveways with tiles that are not large enough. “Who is giving them permission to put those little bitty things in?” she asked.

The committee also heard about flooding problems in other sections.

Committee member John Lewis said Stout Hollow continues to be a problem. He said a natural channel was filled in by a property owner and a building erected. He said a tile was installed, but it was not big enough to carry the water in storms.

“I have had a lot of complaints,” Lewis said about neighbors living downstream.

Street said Ingram Branch Road has also had problems with too much water for a tile to carry, but he said “when it drops 2 to 4 inches of rain on a mountainside, it is going to tear up roads.”

The committee did have some good news from Perkins on the Coney Island project to repair a road that had been washed out in a January flood. He said a federal natural resources grant to replace the section of road has been approved and the project will soon be bid out.

The committee also asked for a status report on a drainage project that preceded this year’s rains. The committee had commissioned Tysinger, Hampton and Partners to conduct a survey of drainage problems in a section of Biltmore. The study has been completed but no decisions have been made.

On another matter, Old Charity Hill Road resident Rusty Barnett asked the committee to consider reducing the speed limit on the road from 35 mph to 20 mph. Barnett was instructed to circulate a petition in the neighborhood.

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