Things are looking up for the area around Little River Park, where Hurricane Matthew caused extensive structural damage in October.
Contractors working for the N.C. Department of Transportation recently completed repairs to N.C. 97, which was closed after floodwaters from the storm washed out the approach on the west side of the bridge over the Little River.
The fate of the Little River dam, an iconic Zebulon feature dating back to 1871 that was breached during Matthew, may also be taking a turn for the better.
While Wake County was not initially included on the list of counties eligible for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Kenny Waldroup, assistant director of Raleigh’s public utilities, said subsequent work and evaluation determined Wake would be considered a federal disaster area.
The matter is in the hands of Raleigh, rather than Zebulon, because the town merged utility services with the city in 2006.
“The City of Raleigh has entered (the dam) into our inventory with the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Waldroup said Friday. “We believe it warrants FEMA funding for repair. We have filled out the appropriate paperwork and are awaiting their determination.”
The deadline to file that paperwork isn’t until the end of January, and it is uncertain how long it will take to get a response.
Waldroup previously said a decision on whether to repair the dam would need to be evaluated from several angles – its use as a potential water supply, as an emergency rural fire pumper supply and for its cultural and recreational aspects. But he also said FEMA support would be a big factor in that decision.
“From our standpoint, it was certainly an important component,” Waldroup said. “The federal eligibility makes it an easier decision.”
FEMA intervened to help repair the Little River dam after Hurricanes Fran and Floyd.
Based on the costs of those repairs, and taking some inflation into account, officials initially estimated the price tag on the most recent damage would likely exceed $130,000. The latest estimate is $344,300.
“It was a greater level of damage than either of the previous events, by far,” Waldroup said.
N.C. DOT officials estimated in late October it would take just over a month to repair N.C. 97.
The projection held true, as work concluded with a final inspection Dec. 22 before the state highway reopened to traffic the following day.
During the repair, motorists using the Wendell-Zebulon connector were rerouted on a 2.7-mile detour along Water Plant and Green Pace Roads.
Environmental risks ruled out what would have been a faster option for completing the work. Instead of filling the large void under the roadway from the bottom-up and keeping the existing concrete structure, workers gouged the entire approach section and filled it back in from above.
But Reese Briley, Division 5 bridge maintenance engineer with the N.C. DOT, said the project was completed fast enough considering it was one of many Hurricane Matthew left on his agency’s to-do list.
“I would say, relatively speaking, it was expedited to assemble a contract,” Briley said. “Department forces did a portion of the work to where a contractor could come in there and do what they needed to do to get the job done.”