ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County’s ongoing efforts to clean up after Hurricane Matthew on October 2016 got a big shot in the arm on Thursday when the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded the county $800,000 to be used for waterway debris removal.
The money is part of a $30.8 million grant program the Foundation has awarded since January, primarily for hurricane disaster relief in the southeast portion of the state. On Thursday, about $11 million was awarded by the Foundation, most of which came to Robeson, Columbus, Cumberland and Bladen counties.
“This is very positive news for us,” said County Manager Greg Martin. “It will go a long way toward helping with the cleanup process.”
Martin added that flooding was “extremely serious” in the Bladenboro, Kelly, Rowan and N.C. 210 areas, where clean-up projects are continuing.
According to Dean Morris, director for the county’s Soil & Water Conservation District, the Golden LEAF money will be used to clear some of the hardest-hit waterways in the county
“We still have a lot of fallen trees, branches and other debris in the county’s rivers and streams after Hurricane Matthew,” he said. “So we will use this money to focus on the Black River, South River and Big Swamp areas. These were the greatest areas of impact from the storm.”
Morris added the county received a $300,000 award from the N.C. Division of Soil and Water earlier in the year, which he said would also be used for clean-up of the county’s waterways.
Martin said the amount received from the Foundation either very close or was the full amount applied for.
“I really want to commend Dean and Greg Elkins for the coordination of the application to Golden LEAF,” he added.
The money comes from the General Assembly, but the Golden LEAF Foundation is administering it without any charge to the state.
Other area beneficiaries of the Foundation’s awards included $3.5 million to Robeson County for a variety of projects, including the school system’s need for a new central office; and $1,767,000 to Fair Bluff in Columbus County for repairs to its town hall.
The Golden LEAF Foundation was formed by the state General Assembly to provide assistance to poor or tobacco-dependent regions of North Carolina whose local economies were damaged by the tobacco buyout.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.