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By Erin Smith

The Bladen County Board of Commissioners approved a funding agreement with the US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Services on Monday. Dean Morris with the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation Office told the Commissioners the county has received a total of $1 million to help with storm debris removal caused by Hurricane Matthew and other storms. Read the agreement here.

“We are going to be able to do a lot of work on this,” said Morris.

Areas which are being given priority by the Soil and Water Conservation Board are Big Swamp from NC 41 to the Lumber River. Morris said this will be a joint effort between Bladen, Robeson and Columbus counties. He said there are a lot of trees and beaver dams which are impeding the flow of water. Morris siad Columbus County will step in on the Lumber River and carry it to the South Carolina line.

Another area given priority is the lower end of the Bryant Swamp Drainage District. Morris said the county plans to clean the canal from Richardson Road to Big Swamp. He also said the board plans to clean the entire length of the Black River and the South River.

“It’s going to be huge project to do,” said Morris. “As you know, all up and down the Black River there has been flooding of homes. A lot of lives have been displaced.”

He said it has been blessing to receive the funds to be able to provide some of the county’s residents some relief. Morris added, the project will not include removal of the sediment. However, there may be a need in places along the Black River to perform such a task. Morris said if the need should arise to remove sediment built up in the Black River, there is a nationwide permit the county can operate under that allows for such removal to a certain depth.

The goal is to begin the project by Oct. 1, 2017 and have the project completed by December 31.

Commissioner Michael Cogdell asked Morris about Brown’s Creek in the area of Richardson Road and Martin Luther King Drive. Morris said the creek is not off the list. He added the Soil and Water Conversation Board prioritized the rivers and Black River was rated the top priority.

“We were able to get a grant for $800,000 but it is for flooded areas,” said Morris. He said that frees up a separate grant the county initially received in the amount of $241,000. Morris said Brown’s Creek which flows through Elizabethtown is the next highest priority.

Morris explained there are channels throughout Bladen County which need to be cleaned but there simply isn’t enough funding to do them. The grants are limited to removal of trees and other storm debris from the designated high priority areas.

Commissioner Ophelia Munn-Goins inquired about the status of the Lyon’s Landing Drainage Canal in Kelly. Morris said the Lyon’s Landing Drainage District had applied for funds and the county had requested funds to clean Lyons Landing Canal. Morris said the Lyon’s Landing Drainage District has the funds and will be working on the Lyons Landing Canal and White Oak Canal.

Commissioner Munn-Goins also asked about the canals in East Arcadia which she said have not been cleaned in 15 years. Morris replied they are all on the list.

The commissioner approved the agreement with the US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Services. They also approved Morris to be designated as the Program Contact for Bladen County and Finance Officer Lisa Coleman to be designated to act as the Administration Contact.

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