Local News

Princeville residents: Time has come to tame Tar River

Posted February 3, 2017 5:22 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:39 p.m. EDT

— In Princeville, where residents are still drying out from Hurricane Matthew's inundation, there were questions again on Friday about when and how the town can better prepare to better tame the Tar River when the next torrent comes.

Many thought the time had come after Hurricane Floyd washed through the town in 1999.

As a WRAL News investigation showed, the Army Corps of Engineers launched a study back then on how to protect Princeville. The study took time – 15 years – and no action had been taken before Hurricane Matthew again put the town in danger of extinction.

That timeline is a point of concern for town leaders, like Fire Chief James Powell.

"I feel like the story highlighted some issues, like the time frame the study was done," he said Friday. "It shouldn’t have taken that long, or there should have been more oversight that could have made them accountable.”

Powell said flaws in the town's levee design, outlined in the Army Corps' study, should have been identified and fixed years ago.

The delay meant that water again gushed into Princeville after Matthew.

A project manager who worked on the study told WRAL News it was a complicated project that demanded time.

But time was not on Princeville's side. The town endured two historic floods in the span of 17 years.

Russell Bradley lived through both.

"I feel like they should have done something about this less than 15 years ago," he said. "We can understand the first time, but the second time it never should have happened."

Tim Arnold would like to see the levee extended.

"Make the levee higher and wider," he said. "Right now, the way the levee is setting, the water went around this time. It didn’t break through the levee, it went around the levee.”

The recommended fixes will also, of course, cost money.

"I would love to see congressional appropriations to come out, and I'd like to see a reasonable amount of capital to fix the problem," Powell said.