New Bern Sun Journal Aug. 13, 2010

City planning cleanup of blighted Duffyfield canal

Comments 5
August 12, 2010 7:54 PM
P. Christine Smith
Sun Journal Staff

The city of New Bern has partnered with environmental and community groups to initiate a clean-up project years in the making. More than 20 years in the making, that is.
The Duffyfield canal has been a blemish on the neighborhood landscape, with drainage ditches clogging and becoming littered with trash and debris. Local resident Mary Randolph has asked the city to take care of the situation for more than a couple of decades, she said.
Now, something positive is on the horizon, albeit in the planning stages. And, it began with a site visit by the mayor and four aldermen.
“I went on a tour with them from my house to the area of Jack Smith Creek to show them where the water has been running off through the canal,” Randolph said. “It stays stopped up because debris and everything is thrown in there and no one knows who’s doing it.”
The city has turned to the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation and Green Craven, a sustainability organization.
“They seem like they are really excited about getting this cleaned up and taking ownership and taking stewardship in getting this cleaned up,” said Lower Neuse Riverkeeper Larry Baldwin. “It’s their back yard.”
In Randolph’s case, the canal is less than 40 feet from her kitchen door, she said.
“It’s going to be a dirty job,” Baldwin said. “But … it’s an important step for water quality as a whole.”
The Duffyfield canal leads into Jack Smith Creek, which leads into the Neuse River, he said. Cleaning up the canal is the first part of the project. The groups are setting a goal to have a clean-up day in late October or early November, Baldwin said.
“If we get the canals flowing, get the garbage out of them … it doesn’t take much imagination to see that the wetlands will come back. The crayfish will come back,” Mayor Lee Bettis said. “They’ve just been neglected and we can turn these horrible detriments into great benefits.”
A larger part of the project is cleaning up areas of Jack Smith Creek, where, in places, it looks like a dumping ground. Baldwin and Green Craven representatives paddled the creek recently and saw its condition first hand, said Bobby Aster, the city’s fire chief and acting public works director.
“They discovered a tremendous amount of old cars and truck bodies and hundreds of tires and all kinds of debris on the banks and in the creek,” he said.
The groups provided Aster with photos, which he forwarded to the county’s emergency management director, Stanley Kite. Kite, in turn, forwarded the photos to the N.C. Department of Environmental Health and Natural Resources.
“The information has been submitted and at this time I’ve not had any official correspondence,” Aster said, adding that he expects the department’s representatives to visit the site very soon.
“I’m following their lead on this,” Aster said. “What Green Craven and the Neuse River Foundation can do, we’re ready to assist them in whatever way we can.”
Bettis and aldermen Victor Taylor, Bernard White, Johnnie Ray Kinsey and Dana Outlaw visited with Randolph on May 14, after she had attended a Board of Aldermen meeting earlier that week to express her concerns.
“We got up with some Green Craven engineers, green lawyers, architects,” Bettis said. “These people all care about the environment.”
The Board of Aldermen on Tuesday approved a contract with E.L.J. Inc. for the Jack Smith Stormwater Improvement Project. The $750,000-$770,000 contract is for the construction of a pumping station with two pumps to help with drainage issues in the Duffyfield and Five Points areas. The contract price depends on whether the city selects electric submersible pumps or hydraulic pumps, respectively. The project is funded, in part, through a $1 million grant from the N.C. Clean Water Management Fund.
The project’s second phase is the development of a 29-acre enhanced wetlands site that will use natural filtration to cleanse the stormwater drainage before it enters Jack Smith Creek. The N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Project has committed $1.3 million to pay for this part of the project.
The project coincides perfectly with the efforts to clean up the Duffyfield canal and the Jack Smith Creek, said Tim McLear, a retired mechanical engineer who volunteers his time to Green Craven.
“It’s inconsistent to filter water through brand new wetlands and have it run through all this junk,” he said. 
P. Christine Smith can be reached at 252-635-5666 or pcsmith@freedomenc.com