Stormwater complexities are debated
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Jul 09, 2014 | 880 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Flooding and stormwater continue to be issues discussed by the Bradley County Road Committee.

The solutions to issues presented are more complicated than simply redirecting water.

A number of laws and regulations dictate what the road committee can and cannot do to solve stormwater issues. One such regulation deems that ditches and drainage pipes must follow the natural flow of water.

An issue on Meadow Drive has been discussed at both Bradley County Commission and Cleveland City Council meetings.

Road superintendent Tom Collins noted the property is within the city limits, but the water coming onto the property flows from the county.

“There is some erosion there, which is not uncommon for that type of area and that type of ground,” Collins said.

Collins said his department would be moving forward with getting the ditch in which the water should flow secured. The ditch was closed in when a 12-inch pipe was installed by the property owner. The water flows from an 18-inch pipe farther up the road into the 12-inch pipe. The difference in the sizes of the pipes is contributing to the issue.

“What we do is not going to affect the amount of water. There is really not anything we can do about the amount of water,” Collins said.

He said the 12-inch pipe is causing problems and it would have been better if property owners had left the ditch the way it was.

Commissioner Jeff Yarber said the property owner most likely filled in the ditch to keep the water from overflowing into his property.

Collins said because a pipe has a smaller surface area then a ditch, closing a ditch and putting in a pipe often creates a back flow.

Bradley County Engineer Sandra Knight said the drainage easement had to be altered even before the pipe was installed in order to allow for the house to be built.

Knight said those who work in stormwater divisions throughout the state are seeing a surge in issues over the past 10 years because of increased rainfall due to global warming.

Commissioner Ed Elkins said more stormwater has also been created by the development of uphill properties.

“It seems we need to start formulating some plans together where we can at least tell these individuals, ‘We can’t come onto your property, but here is what we think you could do,’” Yarber said.

The county can only perform work within the county right of way or an easement. State law prohibits the county from working on private property.

Knight said the county departments cannot give homeowners specific instructions on what to do because that would create a liability for the county.

Knight said regulations are getting to the point that the federal stormwater regulations want zero runoff from new construction.

“When does it become the county’s problem to fix something a homeowner did to his own property?” committee member Charlotte Peak –Jones said.

She said more than one property owner has put in pipes and filled in the ditch.

“If they filled it in, they damaged their own property,” Peak-Jones said.

Yarber encouraged the road department to try to meet with the city on the issue.

Knight said she would get with city public works director Tommy Myers to discuss what the city could do.

Stormwater regulations were adopted in Bradley County in 2004.

Stormwater issues can be made worse by erosion. Collins said erosion is often caused by spraying weed killer in the ditch. If all of the grass in the ditch is killed, the grass cannot hold the soil in place and it washes away. Pulling or cutting weeds is a better option.

Collins and Knight will also look into what can be done for runoff that is flowing onto the road and causing a drainage ditch on Varnell Road to turn into a pond.

Collins said there was a drainage pipe that had been damaged and needed to be replaced.

A long-term solution may be complex because the water that runs in the ditch is connected with a blue-line stream. Knight said this means there are additional regulations that need to be followed.

The county currently uses data from a 2007 Federal Emergency Management Agency flood study when looking at problem areas.