Smithfield Herald

Smithfield considers repairs for damaged greenway

Soil under the Buffalo Creek Greenway in Smithfield has eroded due to heavier-than-usual rainfall.
Soil under the Buffalo Creek Greenway in Smithfield has eroded due to heavier-than-usual rainfall.

More rain than usual and subsequent erosion have damaged the Buffalo Creek Greenway, leaving it in need of immediate repairs. Smithfield is taking steps to make those repairs and analyze how to make long-term fixes.

The river bank adjacent to the part of the Buffalo Creek Greenway in front of the Boy Scout Hut eroded, undermining the concrete pathway between 75 and 100 feet. This leaves the main sanitary sewer outfall to Smithfield’s wastewater plant in danger of being exposed and the pathway in danger of eventual collapse.

When the greenway was constructed about five years ago, the town knew eventual repairs were inevitable, said Smithfield Planning Director Paul Embler. At the time, the town moved to delay any action on the greenway until a problem presented itself. That day has arrived.

“If we do nothing, we risk further damage to the greenway,” Embler said. “Mother Nature is what’s causing the issue.”

However, to make the necessary repairs, Smithfield can’t legally take matters into its own hands. The town needs to get approval from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers, which have jurisdiction over all construction for that part of the Neuse River.

Embler asked the Smithfiled Town Council at its November meeting for money to draft a letter to the Corps of Engineers and to perform an engineering assessment of the damage.

For these tasks, the council approved up to $5,000. Councilmen Perry Harris and Marlon Lee voted against spending the money.

The next step is to hire a specialty engineering firm to make the emergency repairs. The town contacted three firms and is weighing repair bids from Kimley-Horn and Hazen and Sawyer.

Total repair costs can’t be determined until the DNER and Corps of Engineers approve a design solution, Embler said. When costs are determined, the proposal will go in front of the council again.

Since the eventual repair is an emergency, it isn’t budgeted and will have to be paid for with contingency funds, Embler said. He said he hopes to have more money set aside for greenway repairs in future town budgets.

“We will be looking for assistance from the engineer as he gains more knowledge for what needs to be done, then we will start budgeting for that,” Embler said.

While emergency repairs are important, Harris said this problem isn’t a one-and-done kind of fix. In fact, he said, it’s just going to keep getting more expensive, even with a long-term solution.

“You say it has to be fixed, but you’re never going to be able to fix it. It’s a cash cow,” Harris said. “It’s going to constantly cost money to keep that afloat, with hurricanes and high water.”

The greenway was constructed with a $1 million bond issued by the N.C. Department of Transportation, Embler said. To receive the bond, the town had to agree to take care of maintenance.

Future DOT money for the site is a long shot, he said.