A proposed study of the Long Branch watershed area at Windmill Plantation could lead to further studies of flood-prone areas throughout the county and eventually create new zoning considerations.
Columbia County officials are planning to study the watershed area at Windmill Plantation in Evans to determine how water flow and development affects drainage there. The study will cost about $40,000.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The study, which will cost $40,000 and be conducted by the Augusta firm Cranston, Robertson & Whitehurst, was given preliminary approval a couple of weeks ago by the Columbia County commission's public works committee.
The issue was given final approval by the full county commission Nov. 2.
Although the committee agreed to recommend the study, which will look at possible improvements to flooding in the area, some commissioners at first had reservations at the public works committee after being told the study was being initiated, in part, to confront flooding in several privately owned front yards off William Few Parkway in Windmill Plantation.
Jim Leiper, the county's engineer, told committee members the county is not liable for a ditch that continues to flood those residents' front yards and that the ditch technically is the responsibility of the homeowners. Still, he said "we're looking at it as a possible public service.''
It was a month ago when torrential rains from the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne caused flooding in the front yards of the Windmill Plantation homes.
Commissioner Steve Brown said Thursday residents there bought into a flood plain and should have known flooding was a possibility.
"It just seems to me, here we go again, spending money,'' he said.
In the end, committee members agreed to proceed with the study but said a comprehensive water basin study should be conducted throughout the county.
"After this one, let's ID these basins and let's get prepared before a developer buys them and sets up a (planned unit development),'' Brown said.
Leiper said the Long Branch watershed covers a 600-acre area. He added that a study of the area also is needed because an extension of the Riverwood development is being planned nearby in the same watershed.
"One of the things I want to look at are the areas most likely to receive development close to the flood plain so I can get good information on how best to protect those future developments,'' Leiper said. "That would be a really good thing - to look at zoning provisions coupled with storm water runoff and the impact there and maybe try to prevent larger impacts from more dense development.''
Leiper said a temporary fix that had been planned for the ditch in front of the Windmill Plantation homes was recently turned down by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The temporary fix would have involved the county removing thick vegetation in the ditch to better allow drainage.
"They (the Corps) like seeing the vegetation there to prevent erosion along the creek banks,'' he said. "That slows the velocity down.''
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