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County trying to help dirt road residents with drainage issue

Henderson County and NCDOT engineers will try to help residents of a private dirt road with big drainage problems get the road onto the state system.

Commissioners ordered a review of the situation after Larry Marshall and other residents of Hawkins Spring Road complained at an Oct. 16 meeting that drainage from Howard Gap Loop has caused repeated flooding and erosion of the road. Working with the DOT, County Engineer Marcus Jones investigated the drainage complaints and reported to commissioners on Wednesday.

The road could be taken over by the NCDOT as a state road, although that is "not an as easy task by any means," Jones said. But because the road was built before 1975, it comes under rules that make the takeover possible. "However, property owners would need to bring the road up to an acceptable condition of maintenance" before the state would consider taking it over.

Residents insist that drainage from Howard Gap Loop is causing the erosion and that the DOT should fix it. DOT engineers say numerous studies have shown that the state is not responsible for the flooding and erosion.

"Unfortunately, the road was built in the drainage corridor off of Howard Gap Loop Road," Jones said.

Jones met on site with NCDOT district engineers and hydraulics engineers from Raleigh on Nov. 12, then on Jan. 23 Commissioner Rebecca McCall met with property owners, DOT district engineers and the hydraulics experts to review the drainage report from NCDOT.

"The report reached the same conclusion as prior research. NCDOT was not diverting water and were not liable for the erosion on Hawkins Spring Road," Jones said in a report. "NCDOT district staff did agree to armor the ditch within NCDOT right of way leading into (the road) and have started the purchasing process for materials."

Jones and NCDOT engineers agreed to help the Hawkins Spring Road residents navigate the lengthy and complicated process to get the DOT to accept the road. McCall said the ditch armor was "not a perfect solution" but might help.