just throwing money at the problem now; we're not going after
the causes," said Joseph Freebery, general manager of the
Department of Special Service. That is county government's
public works agency.
Councilman Timothy Sheldon, who is sponsoring a proposed
ordinance to provide financing, which also is backed by Council
president Paul Clark, said the measure will cover the cost of 26
engineering and construction projects.
present time, he told Delaforum, no buyouts of private
properties are involved, adding, however, that that could happen
and money would be available if it is necessary to complete any
of the projects.
proposed ordinance is scheduled for
introduction at Council's session on Dec. 7. If usual practice
followed, it will come up for a vote -- and, observers say,
near-certain enactment on Dec. 21. Sheldon would not predict
that saying that his is only one of 13 votes on Council. Seven
will be needed to pass the measure.
drafted, the proposal would transfer $12
million in the current capital budget from "the parkland
acquisition project" and $5 million from "the land acquisition
project" and transfer those sums to "the storm mitigation
Sheldon said costs of the projects currently on the 'to-do' list
total $12.9 million, but that is based on conservative estimates
and his experience in construction tells him that the bottom
line will be much closer to $17 million. That would certainly be
true if property buyouts occur, he added.
of the communities on the list are: Glendale, Newkirk Estates,
Hyde Park, Marshallton, Caravel Farms, Du Ross Heights and
Hawthorne. One project would involve Matson Run, a stream in
all have to be done if the flooding is to be brought under
control," Sheldon said.
Freebery declined a Delaforum request that he explain details of
the projects, saying it would be "premature"
to do so before presenting them to Council members. The draft of
the proposed ordinance would seem to indicate there is a line in
the current capital budget for stormwater mitigation, but the amount to
be amended is listed as zero.
draft also refers to the money as coming from "appropriations
and bond authorizations." A planned sale of $80 million in
county bonds has been put on hold pending the outcome of a
taxpayers' suit now before Court of Chancery.
Without going into detail, Clark said at a meeting of leaders of
area-wide civic groups on Dec. 2 that "no new money is being
spent" and that the money being transferred had been intended
for things that "we have determined can be deferred."
Freebery would not say that they are.
indicated that he regards assisting people whose houses
were severely damaged or destroyed in the aftermath of the
September storm as a top priority. "I don't think we're going to
let anybody drown," he said.
Residents of several communities have been pressuring county
government to come to their aid. Following flooding in a
September, 2003, storm, the county teamed with Delaware
Department of Transportation to buy out the owners of houses
that were destroyed in Glenville, a suburban community near
Newport. Then and since, Council members and other county officials
have been at pains to assure other constituents that their pains
are not going unheeded.
civic groups meeting, extensive discussion indicated that
whatever is in the immediate offing is not being regarded as a
solution to what Kenneth Murphy, president of the Greater
Hockessin Economic Development Association, said is far-and-away
"the biggest single problem New Castle County has."
doesn't go away. ... It's going to take more than the county to
take care of it," Freebery said with reference to the apparently
growing movement toward having county government increase its
role in stormwater management.
said there are efforts underway to seek help from state
agencies, but "we haven't had any resounding success yet."
said state legislators, in particular, are conspicuous by their
silence on the issue. While touring flood-damaged communities,
he said, "I haven't seen many from the state out there with us."
State Senator Karen Peterson, whose district was particularly
hard hit by flooding, has been at least one notable exception to
Freebery said that he would favor "an authority that is going to
look at this (stormwater matters) with a single focus." That
would indicate his support for establishment of a stormwater
management authority. Such a move is being advocated by the
state Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control,
which reportedly has hired a consultant to look into the
feasibility of doing so.
Besides providing oversight to stormwater management, a
dedicated authority also "would have the clout" necessary to
deal with related interjurisdictional matters, particularly with
neighboring Chester County, Pa., from which the creeks carrying
a relatively large amount of water into New Castle flow.
a brief appearance at the civic groups meeting meeting, County
Executive Tom Gordon said the ultimate solution lies with
controlling the various waterways which empty into the Christina
River. "These creeks are out of control. [Fixing that] is going
to take years," he said. He specified, in particular, Red Clay,
White Clay and Mill Creeks.
Removal of obstacles which impede the regular flow of water in
the creeks would go a long way toward helping alleviate the
immediate threat, he said. The Glenville situation was the
result of several small dames and other obstacles giving way and
suddenly releasing a miniature tidal wave to sweep downstream.
According to Charles Baker, general manager of the Department of
Land Use, there are an estimated 2,500 houses in the 100-year
floodplain in the county. While the Unified Development Code and
enhanced enforcement of land-use standards has that under
control looking to the future, he pointed out that existing
housing stock -- almost all of which goes back to the mid-1970s
and earlier -- is in potential jeopardy, he said.
floodplain reference is to areas considered apt to be flooded by
rainstorms with intensities considered likely with 1% of all
storms. It has become almost cliché to say that so-called
'100-year storms' now occur once or twice every year.
said he is amazed by "the number of people who move into [an
area] after a flood [there]."
Specter, of the land-use department, said that stormwater
drainage ponds installed to control sudden increases in
stormwater are being widely neglected. There are about 650 of
those in the county, of which about 400 are intended to protect
residential communities. County inspectors have determined that
253 of the latter are in current need of repair, with problems
ranging up to and including complete failure.
problems, he said, is that community-supported maintenance
organizations are either non-existent to inactive for lack of
volunteers to run them. In some cases, developers never turned
over the properties to associations. Only 253 maintenance
organizations are registered with the county, which assists in
the cost of repairs only for registered organizations.
Registration is voluntary.
that, Baker said, that is the result of 25 years of neglect of
the drainage pond approach to stormwater management. With new
developments, various forms of natural drainage are being used
instead of ponds.
Nevertheless, Freebery pointed out, the existing ponds, which in
most cases cannot be replaced, are a critical first step to
controlling what happens to rain falling upon impervious