Flooding the focus of joint meeting in Bladenboro

By: W. Curt Vincent - Bladen Journal

BLADENBORO — A group of about 20 officials representing the town of Bladenboro, Bladen County, the county Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services, Bryant Swamp Flood Control Corp., Boost the ‘Boro and local farmers came together Friday morning to hear complaints about flooding problems in the Bryant Swamp area.

Although the 90-minute affair was heavily laced with finger-pointing and accusations from Bladenboro resident Dawson Singletary, no specific solutions were settled on other than an emphasis to forget the perceived misdeeds of the past and to work together to find a successful solution.

Singletary, who spoke to the county commissioners at their meeting on Monday, opened the gethering by saying he was “tired of being blamed for the flooding taking place” in Bladenboro.

“I’m as concerned about the flooding of the town and my land as anyone,” he said before reeling off a history of what he says have been numerous missteps and lies surrounding cleanup efforts, particularly following severe storms.

“And now we have beavers creating problems,” Singletary said. “I’ve been told beaver dams have been cleared out, but the water level never falls.

“I’ve seen the maintenance reports by the Division of Soil and Water, and I’d call them all lies,” he added. “Also, the Bryant Swamp Drainage Corp. hasn’t done anything, hasn’t spent a dime and hasn’t tried to solve any flooding problems — I don’t event think the corporation exists.

“I have no confidence in any of the people involved here,” he said.

Singletary’s allegations were answered by Dean Morris, district director for the Bladen Soil and Water Conservation District, who told Singletary that he does not work for the federal government.

“I’m not responsible for any of what you have presented,” he said. “If you have any questions on those reports, you have to talk with them.”

Morris explained that, in 2000 following Hurricane Floyd, a federal program — using local inspectors — allowed for a clean-out of the Big Swamp area, and that the water level dropped “a strong 4 feet and all the beaver dams were gone.” All of the work was approved by a federal inspector.

“But that was 2000 … do you know how much has changed?” Morris asked. “All that was done then was done right and was successful, but it has no relevance now.”

Ray Britt, county chairman, interceded and attempted to move minds toward less finger-pointing and more partnership.

“We can go back and forth and argue, but we really need to find out how we can move forward,” he said. “I think this might be the perfect test to see if what I was told in Washington (recently) is really true — that we can get quicker action by banding together and putting in that phone call to the right federal department head.”

In bits and pieces, it was explained that the town of Bladenboro’s recent award of a Golden LEAF grant would allow for sediment removal from Wateree Park, past the hardware store in town and to the Richardson Road bridge; while Division of Soil and Water grants for Bladen and Columbus counties would allow for clean-up work to be done from Richardson Road bridge to the Lumber River and on to the South Carolina border.

“That’s big, and it’s probably never been done before,” Morris said. “There really is a lot of work being done.”

“It sounds like we have this solved,” said Don White, president of Boost the ‘Boro.

But Singletary disagreed.

“Unless they clean out debris and sediment downstream from me, I’m not allowing any work to be done on my property,” he said. He also hinted he was considering getting the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and FBI involved.

Britt, along with County Commissioner Charles Ray Peterson, once again pushed for a concerted effort to solve the problem.

“Regardless of what has happened in the past and who is responsible, the county is ready to be a resource for support in any way we can to get things moving in the right direction,” Peterson said. “If we have to come together again, then we will.”

“If we can get numbers together on costs and get the area counties to address a letter so we can get it in the hands of the feds for action, I think we can get this moving,” Britt said. “But we have to act together.”

A reading of the articles for incorporation for the non-profit Bryant Swamp Flood Control Corp. from the 1960s gave those in the meeting proof the entity does legally exist and has met all of the state’s requirements as a corporation.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or cvincent@bladenjournal.com.

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W. Curt Vincent

Bladen Journal