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City denies dam gates spur floods

ReservoirDam2.jpg

Rocky Mount city staff stressed to council members that the gates on the reservoir dam have no effect on flooding downtream.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff writer

Monday, September 17, 2018

Rocky Mount doesn't have flood gates and isn't responsible for downstream inundation, city officials continue to stress in the face of perpetual rumors that it’s their fault whenever neighboring towns end up under water.

The city has no control of the amount of water flowing over the dam — when the river level rises over 125 feet, it pours downstream, Public Works Director Jonathan Boone reiterated last week during an emergency meeting of the City Council.

Hurricane Florence blew through the area over the weekend, dropping a Biblical amount of rain. Much of that water will make its way to the ocean via the Tar River, passing through Tarboro and Princeville along the way.

The storm may be moving on, but flooding is now a real danger as waters from the north and west flow through the Twin Counties.

Rocky Mount lowered the gates at the Tar River Reservoir last week to allow water through the dam so that the river would be at its lowest possible level when the storm hit, Boone said.

Council members Richard Joyner and Andre Knight said many of their constituents believe the city is responsible for flooding Princeville in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Joyner asked about any dams on the Tar River above Rocky Mount, and Boone said Rocky Mount has the only dam on the river.

"Princeville feels like it's at the end of the line," said Joyner, who recently moved to the city from rural Edgecombe County.

City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said Edgecombe County officials were informed about the lowering of the gates, which will help everyone when the river begins to rise again.

Adding weight to the persistent rumors, a hydraulic lift at the dam broke down during Matthew allowing water through. But the malfunction of the lift gate had little effect on how much water flowed over the dam, city engineers said.

During Matthew, the river topped the dam at more than 127 feet.

The gate was repaired last year.

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