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Across Pocahontas Trail from The Woods golf course, several streets combine to form a neighborhood of homes whose residents know all too well what happens when it rains.
The small grid of streets are old. They were built before James City County required new developments to take into account management of precipitation and its runoff.
The houses and their lots along the streets were developed piecemeal instead of in a single stroke, further complicating the drainage situation.
The result is what James City County Stormwater Director Fran Geissler describes as a “real problem.”
“When we get larger storms and it exceeds the capacity of the system, there’s nowhere for the water to go,” she said. “It just has to evaporate. That can take time in a steamy Virginia summer.”
Newer neighborhoods incorporate overarching stormwater systems designed to ensure water does not pool and create flooding hazards and mosquito breeding grounds. And while such a system does not exist in the area of Howard, Jackson, Church, Whiting and Railroad streets in Grove, help is on the way.
A cost for the project has not yet been determined, but funds set aside for stormwater infrastructure in the recently approved county budget are likely going to be used to continue to study the area with the hope of finalizing a design for a project to create a drainage system for the neighborhood by 2016.
The neighborhood, located across the street from The Woods golf course, is bordered to the north and east by the CSX railroad tracks. The Country Village Mobile Home Park is southeast of the neighborhood, which does not have a formal name.
The issue is causing two main problems in the neighborhood: pooling from heavy rains sometimes prevents residents from using their driveways, and the resulting favorable conditions for mosquitoes and termites to breed.
“Any time there is standing water, you’re going to have an increase in creatures of various types that you do not want,” Geissler said.
The studies into the area will help determine the best way of getting rid of the excess water. They will also take into account utilities and future sites for sorely needed infrastructure like sidewalks so that any project to create stormwater infrastructure does not open the door to more problems.
Potential infrastructure that could be installed includes retention ponds, wetlands and a system of drainage pipes.
“There’s a lot of work when you’re in an already complete environment,” she said. “There’s a lot of research and design.”
After all of that is finished, the actual construction can begin. Past projects in developed areas have taken at least two years to complete. But when work is finished, Geissler said it will have a “profound impact” on the quality of life for residents in the area.
The county now spends upward of $3 million per year on stormwater projects. The recently approved budget includes $3,015,317 for work across the county on drainage infrastructure. The county did not have any employees devoted solely to stormwater issues until 2007.
“The county didn’t really have an organizational base to address those concerns until the division was created with the purpose of looking at drainage problems in the county and coming up with a deliberate, conscientious approach to resolving those problems,” she said.
The division has completed several projects since 2007, including improvements along News Road, replacement of a failed drainage system in Chickahominy Haven and restoration of Jamestown Beach.