Council members approve ordinance to fine people who drive on often flooded road in Carolina Beach

Fines coming for driving on flooded Canal Drive

CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WECT) - Neighbors in one part of Carolina Beach have been dealing with flooding for years but town leaders are hoping to fix the problem.

Council members voted unanimously Tuesday morning to approve fining drivers up to $250 for driving down Canal Drive if it’s closed because of flooding.

The ordinance doesn’t apply to people living on the street. Mayor Joe Benson said they will be redirected to side streets to get home.

Benson said Canal Drive is ground zero for flooding in the town, and the ordinance is needed to protect public and private property.

“When cars drive through (Canal Drive), particularly at high speeds or really at any speeds, it creates a wake," the mayor said. “The wake from that water goes on to adjacent properties on either side of the road, and that’s what we’re trying to limit.”

Jim Powell, who lives on Canal Drive, said he hopes the fines will scare drivers into avoiding his street.

“It’s the lack of respect, I feel [when drivers speed through floodwaters]," Powell said. “These are our properties and water washing up there, washing into garages and such, and salt water is not good for anything.”

The town manager will decide when to close the road for flooding. Barricades will then be set up when roads are closed, and that’s when drivers who ignore the barricades will be fined.

The Canal Drive Flood Committee, made up of nine neighbors, proposed the ordinance. The committee is also trying to build some type of structure against the Myrtle Grove Sound to block the floodwaters from creeping any closer to their homes.

Members of the Coast Guard stationed in Wilmington also spoke at the workshop Tuesday morning. Marine Science Technician First Class Will Moran said there was an increase in pollution calls in the Myrtle Grove Sound this winter.

“We think one of the pieces of the puzzle is since there is nicer weather, there is an increase in the boater population," Moran said. “Also, because of (Hurricane Florence), people are moving their vessels at different times of the year than they normally would.”

He said the majority of the calls are for oil spilling into the water from boats. If the Coast Guard can find the polluter, it is the polluter’s responsibility to clean it up.

If the polluter doesn’t comply, Moran said that person could receive a fine of $45,000 per day, and/or three times the amount it costs the Coast Guard to clean it up.

“We don’t use that as a scare tactic. We use it as a means to let the public know how important it is for the Coast Guard to have a clean environment, not only for us, but for the public as well," Moran said.

The Coast Guard also educates the public on ways to prevent future types of pollution from occurring. Moran said that includes being aware of your boat.

Town leaders also gave an update on new public bathrooms around the island. According to Benson, the boardwalk bathroom renovations will be finished by April 5. The bathrooms planned for the corner of Cape Fear Boulevard and Canal Drive need recommendations from FEMA about how high to raise the potential building since it’s in a high velocity flood zone, Benson said.

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