KELLY, NC (WECT) - As the people of Kelly and greater Bladen County look at what can be done to protect the community from future floods, several have asked if the federal government can help.
However, Rep. David Rouzer said there is little his office can do — at least as far as fixing the White Oak Dike.
Because the dike was declared “inactive” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in 2001, Rouzer said he has no way of using his office to facilitate the Kelly Water Dike and Drainage District getting any funds from the Corps.
USACE requires that any project that falls into inactive status be fully repaired and approved before they can return to the Corps’ rehabilitation program. Even then, the USACE would not provide any money to fix the damage from Hurricane Florence.
Rouzer said that’s probably why his office hasn’t received a formal request out of Bladen County for help.
“This is a local and state matter, that is going to have to be addressed at those levels," he said, "and that, perhaps, is probably the reason why I’ve not heard directly from anybody in the county as it relates to securing Army Corps funding, because the county has had this letter since 2001.”
Though Rouzer said he had not heard directly from anyone in Bladen County, County Manager Greg Martin said he and other officials have been in touch with the congressman’s office. Rouzer’s office later clarified that they touched base with Bladen officials after we started inquiring about what may be done on a federal level.
While congress does control appropriations for the USACE, because the White Oak Dike has been inactive as a federal project, it is not part of those appropriations.
Local officials, including Bladen County Commissioner Ophelia Munns-Goins, say if federal funding isn’t an option, something else needs to be done to help the people of Kelly.
“I empathize with them and I tell you that should have never happened," she said. "That dike should have been maintained all those years, and I agree if our [representative] can’t help us to find money to help them, we need to find a grant, or go to the governor, we need to do something.”
Munns-Goins said in regard to the proposal to resurrect the tax from the 1960s, she isn’t sure that’s the best option.
“My concern is that some of the citizens don’t agree with the tax. It’s something they would have to vote for or come to the county and ask for some type of reprieve of that tax but there has to be some money available like FEMA for everyone else, other types of disasters. We need to see if we can use that type of opportunity or that route.”
When asked what his office could do for the people of Kelly, Rouzer said the goal should be to address the flooding problem at its source — which he said is development further west and clogged rivers.
Rouzer said in addition to the Hurricane Florence relief funding already passed, the state should look at how it can clear out the silt and muck washed into waterways like the Cape Fear River so that water flows more easily to the Atlantic Ocean.
That, Rouzer says, could mitigate future floods.
“We really, as a state, need to step to the plate, address the origin of these floods further west and north of Eastern and Southeastern North Carolina," he said. "Then also address and really focus on cleaning out these rivers, creeks and streams so that the water can get to the ocean like it should.”