County seeks to realign Berrendo River

January 23, 2014 • Local News

Berrendo River’s natural path as it meanders along the east side of North Main Street may be straightened out to avoid future flooding problems.

Chaves County Flood Control Superintendent Dick Smith is in the early stages of designing a plan to protect homes and businesses next to the river, following the disaster caused by the river’s flooding in September.

“It’s a big job, and I don’t know for sure exactly what I’m going to do yet,” Smith said. “I’m looking at different alternatives.”

The floodwaters that rushed through the Berrendo River Sept. 9 were considered a 1,000-year event, Smith said. Even so, the channel handled it with minimal damage.

“We go through and remove excess vegetation (regularly) and keep water flowing smoothly,” Smith said. “But we did have damage. The [auth] bridge on Main Street handled it. We didn’t have a problem until it got down to the railroad trestle.”

From what Smith can determine, the river must have run regularly 115 to 120 years ago.

The section that needs to be realigned starts where North Kentucky Avenue terminates. The river takes a turn and loops around, then heads north as it nears Blue Mountain Road before it hits North Main Street and crosses beneath the bridge.

Smith is looking at cutting across the land to bypass the looped section and build a dam, straightening the river.

As it is now, the river is naturally trying to run across Blue Mountain Road and into the Holiday Inn, Sam’s Club and Walmart area.

“There are no definite plans,” Smith said. “We’re thinking about cutting across and building a dam-like structure. Water does not want to turn at a right angle. We would need to slow it down and still it, and let it go to the right.”

The riverbed would remain natural earth and vegetation would be allowed to grow, Smith said.

Following last year’s flash flooding, the condition of the riverbed remains poor. The waters ripped up banks behind a spa business and throughout the channel.

“Right now, it looks like an (atomic) bomb went off in there,” he said.

The main concern is to preserve the riverbanks from further erosion, Smith said. Several banks sustained damage as the rushing waters hit and bounced off of them, he said. One home was flooded on Blue Mountain Road during the storm.

The county does have equipment to do some work, but most likely would have to hire an outside contractor for the job, Smith said. A similar project was undertaken on the Spring River a few years ago from Cahoon Park to Peppermint Park to restore the walls.

Smith said he would like to see the project get off the ground in the near future. The project would require cooperation and possibly purchasing land from adjoining property owners.

“It may be another 20 years before we get another flood, but when you’re dealing with Mother Nature, it could happen anytime,” Smith said. “Hopefully, it’s not going to cost that much money. I think we’ve got to do something for future generations. But it all takes time.”

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