Charlotte Observer Sept. 18, 2005

Project to restore wetlands

Aim is to improve Dye Branch's ability to deal with runoff downtown

by KATHRYN WELLIN

Mooresville and the state are partnering on a wetlands restoration
project in the downtown area that will provide outdoor education spots,
help protect houses and perhaps lead to a greenway.

The work is needed because Dye Branch absorbs downtown's water runoff
and is severely eroded. Also, like all streams, Dye Branch is changing
course and widening, but it doesn't have enough room because it runs
through downtown.

Dye Branch is usually about 1 to 11/2 feet deep. With heavy rains, it
swells to 6 to 8 feet deep.

The state will pay $2 million for the project, the town $475,000. The
town asked the state for help protecting the houses off Cabarrus Avenue
about four years ago.

"When it rains, Dye Branch turns into this raging river," said Tonia
Wimberly, a senior engineer for the town.

The project should help Dye Branch run its natural course, without
threatening manmade obstacles in its path.

Dye Branch originates in Mooresville and eventually reaches the Yadkin
River.

The project has three parts. They are:

• The state builds three wetland areas for outdoor education at Cemetery
Branch, part of Dye Branch, which is off Church Street between Willow
Valley and Lake Norman Pet cemeteries.

Work on this phase started Sept. 1, and should be finished by month's
end, although planting will occur in December.

The wetland areas will filter pollutants from Cemetery Branch and
provide amphibian habitats. Plant identification signs and walkways are
also planned.

• The town relocates a sewer main along Dye Branch.

The town plans to start moving the sewer main this winter and complete
work by spring. The sewer main starts at Liberty Park on Iredell Avenue
and extends to Willow Valley Park on McLelland Avenue, running about 5
feet off Dye Branch.

The town will move the sewer about 20 feet to give the state room to
widen the stream in the third phase. The work will not affect sewer service.

• The state stabilizes the banks of Dye Branch between McLelland and
Center avenues and slows possible floodwaters.

Next summer, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources
will begin building "flood cells," or wider sections of Dye Branch to
force rushing water to spread out and slow down.

The state will stabilize the channel behind about six houses off
Cabarrus Avenue and plant native plants to stop erosion.

"Some of these residents are really scared their houses or outbuildings
will fall into the creek, and they have every reason to be," Wimberly said.

As part of the project, the bathhouse and basketball courts at Willow
Valley Park will be demolished. When it rains, Dye Branch floods that
area of the park.

The basketball courts will be restored somewhere in the park, once the
state finalizes its construction plans.

Down the road, the town wants to build a greenway on the stabilized Dye
Branch shelf, but has yet to allocate money to do so. The state is
searching for money to stabilize Dye Branch between Center and Iredell
avenues.