Wicomico Mulling Stormwater Projects After Drainage Study

SALISBURY – Cost estimates for a phased stormwater management project in Wicomico County are expected to total nearly $700,000.

Last week, Public Works Director Dallas Baker presented the Wicomico County Council with a completed drainage study of the Pratt Road watershed.

“In a nutshell, we had the study break down the overall drainage shed, which is roughly 330 acres, into different chunks of projects that we can implement in the coming years,” he said.

Baker told the council a study of the watershed – located to the west of Salisbury – identified six infrastructure projects that would mitigate stormwater runoff and benefit nearby properties that are prone to flooding.

While three of the projects will re-establish ditches in the areas of Nithsdale, Pemberton Drive and Hounds Bay Circle, Baker said the larger projects would include enlarging a stormwater pond and changing an outfall structure at Hunters Mill and adding a culvert under Pemberton Drive.

“The total cost on the construction side was $648,000 and the engineering costs was $39,000, so we are talking almost $700,000,” he said. “I’m not proposing we do it all at once.”

Council President John Cannon questioned if a portion of the projects near Hunters Mill should be delegated to the home owner’s association.

“What part of these upgrades fall to the county and what part of the upgrades fall to the home owner’s association?” he said.

Baker explained it was unclear who should take responsibility for funding the projects and maintaining the stormwater systems.

“A lot of these improvements are being recommended for areas that are outside of county-owned right-of-way …,” he said. “There are some grants out there that are available, and the thought process is to take these projects and start using them as our basis for applying for the grants.”

Cannon said he was hoping the county could codify the responsibilities of both the county and property owners in maintaining stormwater systems, such as ditches.

“That’s what I was hoping we would sort out in this whole issue,” he said.

While Baker said ditches outside the county right-of-way are expected to be maintained by the property owner or home owner’s association, Councilman Larry Dodd said the county had no method of enforcing ditch cleanups. He questioned if county staff should be inspecting ditches on private property.

“Is that something we should be proactive about instead of waiting for a problem?” he said.

Wayne Strausburg, the county’s director of administration, disagreed.

“I’m not aware of any authority the county has to enter private property and do any work on private property,” he said.

Councilman Marc Kilmer argued the county should be proactive.

“We have to figure out to what extent the county wants to be involved in these things …,” he said. “There is no easy answer, but we have to talk about it.”

Strausburg added it also remains unclear how the projects would be funded.

“We can use the fund balance to forward fund some of these projects …,” he said. “The challenge is to find ways to forward fund without compromising our ability to find matching grants.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.