Program helps clear the way to reduce flooding, increase usage of Yadkin River in Wilkes County (StRAP Case Study #2)

by | Jan 12, 2024

StRAP Case Study: Wilkes County
Across North Carolina, there are dozens of recent projects aimed at reducing flooding – some complete and others still in progress. Those projects are focused on flood prevention by improving streams and waterways, thanks to $38 million set aside by the General Assembly. That allocation of money created the Streamflow Rehabilitation Assistance Program (StRAP) and made assistance available to communities around the state.
Staff in the NCDA&CS Division of Soil and Water Conservation reviewed applications, awarded the StRAP funding and helped with logistics for the local projects. A previous blog article and a news release in early 2022 explained more about StRAP. Now, with several projects finished or well underway, it’s a good time to share a few examples. The following is a Q&A about one of the projects. It’s the second in a series highlighting StRAP projects throughout North Carolina.

Local entity responsible for project: Wilkes County Soil and Water Conservation District
Funding received: $500,000
Project location: Yadkin River in Wilkes County
Q&A Participants: Rob Baldwin, director; Makayla Norman, natural resource conservationist and streamflow rehabilitation specialist; and Kayla M. McCoy, natural resource conservationist and grants administrator, Wilkes County Soil and Water Conservation District

Q. Can you briefly describe your project?
A. The work focused on removing stream debris from the Yadkin River in Wilkes County. The removal of this debris helps reduce flooding caused by log jams and also increases the safety and usability of the Yadkin River for paddlers and fishermen. The project covers more than seven miles of the river and floodplain.
To dispose of the debris, it has been chipped, burned and/or stockpiled for wildlife in areas outside of the floodplain, depending on landowner preference and cost efficiency.

Debris being loaded into a dump truck to be transported outside of the floodplain.
(Drone Image: Makayla Norman, Wilkes SWCD)

Q. Why was this important work for your area? How does it benefit people there?
A. “By cleaning out hazardous debris from the Yadkin River, our project gives a huge lift to the recreational usage of the Yadkin River,” explained district director Rob Baldwin. The StRAP funds came at an especially vital time because of an Outdoor Action Plan that was adopted in summer of 2022 by Wilkes County, the Town of Wilkesboro and the Town of North Wilkesboro. The purpose of the Outdoor Action Plan is to create a community-led vision and 15-year roadmap to ensure strategic decision-making that grows the outdoor economy and encourages active living. One of the main priorities of the plan is to increase the safety of use of the paddle trails in the county.
“The StRAP funds have helped do just that by removing stream debris that poses danger to paddlers. These funds have helped kick start the Outdoor Action Plan and allowed Wilkes Soil & Water Conservation District to play a key role in the safety and vitality of our community,” said Kayla M. McCoy, the natural resource conservationist and grants administrator for the district.

Q. How important was the state funding to complete this project? Would it have been possible without the StRAP funds?
A. Without the state funding for the StRAP, this project would have never been completed. While the debris cleanup of the Yadkin River was a major priority for all parties concerned, finding funding for the cleanup was a major hurdle, which we were able to overcome thanks to the StRAP funding.
“This is a monumental historic project that would have never been completed in a timely manner without these StRAP Funds. It is one of the most impactful programs NC has ever put into place, said Baldwin. “It will save tons of soil loss, prevent many properties from being flooded and will spare the lives of many citizens by removing hazards from the water and potential stream-blocking and flood-causing debris.”

Debris pile from just one section of the Yadkin River project. (Drone Image: Makayla
Norman, Wilkes SWCD)

Q. Were there any complications or complex elements involved in your project?
A. Convening a meeting with several county departments and state and federal government agencies, all the while keeping everyone focused on the one greater cause has been quite complex.
Our project has been successful due to the cooperation of Wilkes County government, Wilkes County Rescue Squad, the towns of both Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro, Wilkes County Recreation Department, The Wilkes County Emergency Management Services, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the N.C. Forest Service, the NCDA&CS Division of Soil and Water Conservation and the Wilkes County Soil and Water Conservation District. That’s a lot of agencies to coordinate.
We received ten percent match from Wilkes County, which added weight to our application, and we received a promise of in-kind match from both towns North Wilkesboro and
Wilkesboro.

Q. What was the general timeline for your project?
A. We applied in January of 2022 and were awarded funding in June of 2022. We contracted with the Wilkes Rescue Squad to begin work in September of 2022. Since starting work, the project has continually progressed at a steady pace with 3.6 miles being completed and 905 tons of debris removed so far. The project is expected to be completed in June of 2024.

Q. Any other thoughts about your StRAP project?
A. “This project carried enough importance that our soil and water district and Wilkes County saw fit to hire Ms. Makayla Norman to manage our StRAP Program,” Baldwin added. “She has been a tremendous asset for the program, especially with the new additional forthcoming $20 million dollars of StRAP funding.” [See note in the green box below for more information about the new round of funding.]
“I would be remiss if I did not also mention we have had 100 percent cooperation of all landowners. While this project has been a hindrance and/or an inconvenience to some, the totality of the project has been accepted and appreciated by all the affected landowners.”

N.C. StRAP by the numbers:

  • Funding allocated by N.C. General Assembly: $38 million
  • Amount of funding requested for StRAP projects across the state: >$311.6 million
  • Amount of funding awarded$36,746,160.06
    -Total reimbursements$20,053,432.40 paid out for all work done to date
  • Number of projects approved111 awards offered (108 accepted)
    -Projects by local soil & water conservation districts60
    -Projects by other entities48 (15 county governments, 20 municipal governments, 13 nonprofits/others)
    -Number of projects underway86
    -Number of projects completed22 ($4,673,185.73 in reimbursements paid for these completed projects)
    -Location and date of first project completion: Robeson County – work completed Aug. 18, 2022
  • Total work completed:
    Debris removal completed on 2,698,704 linear feet of stream
    Repairs completed on 29 “PL-566” small watershed structures
The N.C. General Assembly has allocated an additional $20 million for StRAP in fiscal year 2024 to continue funding projects that reduce flooding, restore streams and protect the drainage infrastructure of North Carolina’s waterways. The Division of Soil & Water Conservation is currently accepting applications for projects including vegetative debris removal, in-stream sediment removal, streambank stabilization, stream restoration and repair of PL-566 small watershed structures. Soil & water conservation districts, municipal & county governments, sewer & water authorities and nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for funding. Applications will be accepted until February 23, 2024. Learn more on the StRAP website by clicking this green bar.