Polk restoring Pacolet River banks

Published 9:14 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

The banks of the Pacolet River in Polk County, damaged by flooding during the 2004 hurricanes Ivan and Frances and other storms, are now being restored and stabilized.

Polk County Soil and Water District is sponsoring a major stream bank restoration project that recently began in the Morgan Chapel area of the Pacolet River. The Polk office secured a $1.6 million grant to complete one phase of the project, which includes the Pacolet River from Morgan Chapel to Hunting Country. The section being completed now was named Region III of the Pacolet River between Saluda and the state line.

The grant was awarded by the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund a couple of years ago, but the funding was put on hold during the state economic crisis and released a year later.

The soil and water district has strived to restore the Pacolet Rivers banks for years. The district completed emergency repairs to the river after hurricanes Ivan and Frances in 2004 and the total restoration project got off the ground following the emergency work.

Polk Soil and Water Director Sandra Reid said problems with the project in the past included securing rights of way with property owners, but after they saw the benefits of the emergency repairs following the 2004 storms, property owners got on board with the project.

This project was tried years ago with the Pacolet and it didnt get very far because we have to get every homeowner to give a right of way, Reid said.

The stream bank restoration following the 2004 storms was done through Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funding, which includes both state and federal funding. Much of that work was done on the Pacolet in the Harmon Field area in Tryon.

The total Pacolet River stream bank project has been broken up into four regions to make repairs from Saluda to the South Carolina state line.

Region I is the section of&bsp; river from Saluda to Harmon Field and will be the last section to be repaired, according to Reid.

Region II includes the river from Harmon Field to Morgan Chapel, which will be repaired second to last.

Region III is the section currently being repaired from Morgan Chapel to Hunting Country.

Region IV is the river from Hunting Country to the state line, which is scheduled to be repaired next.

The current grant requires a match, but no local money was used. Instead, the soil and water district used volunteer engineering work, administrative costs and the easements obtained to count as the local match. Rights of way were secured from nine property owners for the Region III section of the river.

The work being done includes installing J-hooks and rock veins, correcting the slopes of the banks and planting vegetation along the banks, among other repairs.

Reid says the emergency work done after the 2004 hurricanes has held up with the same types of restoration.

The repairs have all held, Reid said. Weve had no failures.

The current project bid was won by North State Environmental, Inc. out of Winston Salem. The project began a couple of months ago and is scheduled to be completed in April.