Sound Rivers, engineers eye innovative stormwater project at middle school

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Stormwater, Stormwater Issues, Stormwater Restoration Projects, Stormwater Runoff

Posted on April 6th, 2023

Kris Bass Engineering engineers Carmen Tormey (left) and Simon Gregg (right) discuss placement of an innovative stormwater project at West Craven Middle School.

Sound Rivers Program Director Clay Barber was back at West Craven Middle School in Vanceboro this week, scouting locations for another rain garden, as well as a more complex project: a regenerative stormwater conveyance system.

Clay and Kris Bass Engineering’s Simon Gregg took Jill Fusco, North Carolina Land and Water Fund’s eastern field representative, on a tour of the campus, pitching the project along the way. According to Clay, the project would alleviate one of the school’s major stormwater issues: that water entering every landscape drain on the campus flows into a single pipe circling the school, then empties from a single pipe into the Neuse. As a result, the heavy flow of stormwater has severely eroded the bank surrounding the outlet. What could alleviate the overflow and erosion is a regenerative stormwater conveyance system.

A rain garden on the campus of West Craven Middle School is doing its job: allowing water to pond and soak into the ground slowly while nourishing the native plants in the garden.

An RSC is ditch-like, but instead of having a single open channel, the ditch is divided into sections by sandy berms planted with native species. Stormwater pools in the first section, then slowly filters through the sandy wall into the next section, continuing to create the next shallow pool (1 to 2 feet deep) as each section fills up.

“As with every stormwater project, an RSC slows the water down, spreads it out and allows it to sift and filtrate through soil,” Clay said.

Why it’s necessary at West Craven Middle School is because of the single pipe draining the entire campus: Simon foresees tapping into that pipe, bringing some of that stormwater up to the surface to filter through the RSC, cutting in half the amount of fast-flowing stormwater eroding the Neuse’s banks and dumping sediment into the river.

“It will re-naturalize the landscape and definitely cut down on erosion,” Clay said.

It may do far more than that: it could formally put RSCs on North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s list of accepted stormwater management practices. While RSCs are accepted practice in other states, they are not in North Carolina. It’s an ideal opportunity to do some groundbreaking, Clay said, because Simon, as part of his engineering degrees, did a thesis on regenerative stormwater conveyance systems.

“It’s the chance to research the effectiveness of this in a proactive situation — both the timing of it and our ability to provide data on it to the state,” Clay said.



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