Drainage problems a perplexing issue for Green Valley Lane, municipal airport

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

As long as the sun continues to shine, the residents of Green Valley Lane are happy - happy because they don't have to drag out the sump-pumps to use in their basements, and happy to be able to mow their yard without hydroplaning on the lawnmower.
   According to the National Weather Service, the monthly average rainfall for this area in June is 4.40 inches. From the beginning of the month until this date, Elizabethton has already received 5.86 inches of rainfall. An abundance of rain could be one of the factors that is causing problems this year.
   However, severe drainage problems are also contributing to more flooded lawns. Flooded lawns are extending from the road construction on U.S. Highway 91 in Stoney Creek to Hunter Elementary, and homeowners are asking why.
   Dave Honeycutt, 164 Green Valley Lane, appeared before the Carter County Planning Commission Tuesday evening to question what could be done to repair the problem and why there is a problem in the first place. Neighbors of the Elizabethton Municipal Airport argue that the expansion of a runway caused the rerouting of a ditch line which sent water directly into yards.
   People who have lived in this area for a number of decades contend that they have never had flooding like this before. Not only are homeowners concerned, but Randy Music, airport chairman, is troubled enough to consult District Conservationist, Russell Kinser, and ask him to examine the area around the end of runway 24, which was extended three years ago.
   Curiously, the ditch that is located down the airport property line that originally held the water in place for over 30 years is still the same ditch that holds the water runoff even after the runway was extended 400 feet. The only difference now is that a culvert was placed under the new asphalt.
   "It's still a lot of land with grass that absorbs like a sponge," said Music. However, since it has rained above the normal rainfall level, there is more water flowing toward the river. Unfortunately, the water is taking a detour and never making it to the river across U.S. Highway 91.
   The ditch runs down the airport property side of a wooden picket fence. Music has been working with PBS&J representative Jeff Riley along with Kinser for almost a month to find a solution. Riley agreed with Music, saying he doesn't think the flooding is because of the runway extension. He suggested to Music that the ditch be dredged and the side closest to the neighbors be built up with "earth and material to reassure them that water is not coming from the airport."
   However, Music said he does not believe that this will stop the flooding, "but it's going to help a little." Standing water in yards is not an unusual sight to see now from the highway construction to Hunter Elementary School. Part of the problem, according to Kinser, is the addition of road construction and new businesses being built. "Every time one is added, it adds to the runoff," said Kinser.
   Music said, "It looks like this area has nowhere to drain."
   Kinser said that it will take a community-wide solution to help the areas closer to Hunter. Clogged culverts and small tiles might be affecting the amount of water that should flow into the Watauga River instead of into yards and streets.
   A communal effort would require taking the concern to the planning commission to see if the county can help with solutions and money to update the drainage system.