Originally created 09/13/98

Earl's silver lining 091398 - The Augusta Chronicle



Recent flooding put $24 million worth of improvements on Augusta's flood basins to the test and indicated what areas still need more work.Money proved well spentEarl's silver lining

You can usually find a silver lining in storm clouds, and that's also true in regard to Tropical Storm Earl that ripped our area recently bringing the worst floods in eight years. Earl dumped 8 1/2 inches of rain in the Augusta area, while the 1990 floods -- caused by two stalled tropical storms -- brought 15 inches.

The question is, did authorities learnanything from the '90 floods and if so, how successful were they in applying what they learned? In fact, they learned a great deal and spent a lot of money -- $24 million worth of improvements on Augusta's flood basins -- and for the most part the money was well spent.

That's Earl's silver lining.

The recent flooding put the upgrades to the test and indicated what areas still need more work.

"The improvements (detention ponds, channelization, drainage and ditch upgrades paid for by the 1-cent sales tax) have helped significantly," says Drew Goins, assistant director of Augusta Public Works Department. "We didn't flood in certain areas that were hard hit before, but other areas had more localized flooding."

Those areas will be dealt with next in the Flood Mitigation Project, if they aren't being dealt with already. There is still nearly $6 million in anti-flood projects under way.

To be sure, all the spending to combat floods is small consolation to families whose homes Earl flooded out anyway. And the victims are probably right, at least in part, to blame their plight on development.

But whether the development was overdone or is about right for a naturally growing community should be considered within the context of Richmond County Emergency Management Director Pam Tucker's remarks on the day Earl hit.

Flood prevention projects, no matter how costly, can never be 100 percent effective.

Surveying the damage, Tucker noted, "That's what tropical storms do ... They drop so much rain in such a short period. You can spend $10 billion on flood mitigation, and if you get this much rain in a 12-hour period, you're going to have some flooding."

This is why region residents who still live in flood-plain areas should be sure to buy flood insurance.