Summer downpours delay runoff project in Aiken

AIKEN --- Summer downpours have put a damper on the city of Aiken's efforts to reduce storm water runoff into Hitchcock Woods, but construction shouldn't affect the Aiken's Makin' festival.


"The way it's been treating us with all this rain, it's been tough," said Larry Morris, Public Works and Engineering department director.

Rain delays won't keep crews from completing parkway construction from Union Street to Chesterfield Street for Aiken's Makin' patrons heading downtown, said Morris.

Known as the Green Infrastructure Project, portions of downtown Aiken's median parkways have been ripped up since early spring for new irrigation equipment and piping. The holes, ranging from 6 inches to 2 feet will be filled with an engineered soil mixture to treat water, which will also feed vegetation that will be landscaped at the end of the project. Parking areas along downtown streets were also repaved with a porous mixture to pick up any water runoff.

The project is part of a $3.3 million federal stimulus grant from the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and includes a partnership with Clemson University's Center for Watershed Excellence to monitor levels of water collection once the project is complete.

Erosion has been a problem in Hitchcock Woods for more than 20 years. Water flowing into the park from eight spillways created canyons of erosion.

Dianne Phillips, the Aiken Chamber of Commerce finance and membership development director and organizer of Aiken's Makin', joked she's already put in her order for no rain the week of Labor Day so the festival ground has time to dry out. The festival is Sept. 10-11.

"We've been assured by the city that work will be compete,' she said. "I've walked down there and the parkway's pretty solid and I don't think anyone will have to worry about sinking in the ground."

The festival will also rearrange vendors this year so booths are along the street rather than just along the parkway, she said.

Morris said even with rain delays, the project has stayed mostly on schedule. The most labor intensive work includes regrading areas where the engineered soil has fallen to the bottom of holes, he said.

"We've gone from drought to feast to gluttony, so it's hard to pin down an end date, but we're still shooting for before the end of the year," he said.

Drivers and downtown patrons can expect work to continue east of Chesterfield Street after Aiken's Makin'.