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Bladen County commissioners seek military support to repair levee breached during Hurricane Florence

Three years after Hurricanes Florence, many residents are still dealing with the aftermath of severe flooding.
Published: Dec. 20, 2021 at 10:02 PM EST
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BLADEN, N.C. (WECT) - Bladen County commissioners gave an update on plans to repair the levee that was damaged during Hurricane Florence in 2018 at a meeting Monday evening.

Despite being 40 miles from the coast, the rural town of Kelly was flooded by water from the Cape Fear River when it overtopped the White Oak dike five days after Hurricane Florence breaching the levee in several places.

Commissioner Charles Peterson said the county received results of an engineering study that was commissioned in 2020 and does not have the funds to complete repairs, so he has prepared an application to request Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) for a civil-military partnership to assist with the repairs.

Three years after Hurricanes Florence, many residents are still dealing with the aftermath of severe flooding.

“Restoration of the levee will give the Kelly community a sense of hope and security for their homes, families, farms, churches, friends, life, emergency services, and incomes back,” reads a statement in the application.

The White Oak dike is just over 14 miles long and extends about three miles into Pender County. Peterson said the plan is to start at one end and rebuild the levee in sections, to remove trees that have grown, and to repair the flood gates.

In an earlier review of the cost to repair the dike, WECT spoke to Charles Russ, a member of the Kelly Water Dike and Drainage District committee in 2019 who said, “The cost of fixing the dike is in the tens of millions, and could be up to $30 million.”

As a result of mismanagement and neglect for three decades, the dike is not eligible for federal repair funding from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Commissioners will reach out to elected State and Federal leaders in the next legislative session to request support.

Peterson also said a tax may be implemented to help pay for the upkeep of the dike. A tax was collected for a couple of years in the 1960s but was stopped in 1968 and no-one knows why.

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