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Water, water everywhere: Board hosts talk on flooding concerns

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Stanley Riggs


By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Greenville residents who have watched waters rise and neighborhoods flood after heavy rainfall and wondered, “Why does this keep happening?” may find some answers at a neighborhood forum tonight.

The Neighborhood Advisory Board will host the presentation “Greenville and Storms: Why do we flood?” today at 7 p.m. in the third floor gallery of City Hall.

Stanley Riggs, a distinguished research professor with the department of geological science at East Carolina University, will deliver the keynote speech at the event. Ann Maxwell, a member of the neighborhood board, said Riggs will address the need for appropriate zoning to prevent flooding in the city.

Maxwell said the event was scheduled after the board’s June planning sessions, which revealed the No. 1 concern of neighborhoods was flooding. She said she thinks current building practices in Greenville will continue to increase flood risks, and Greenville does not have the policies and zoning in place to prevent further flood danger as development continues.

Riggs is a coastal and marine geologist who has worked on modern coastal systems since 1964. He first joined ECU in 1967. During his time researching for the university, his research extended from inland river, lake, and pocosin environments, to estuarine and barrier island systems, and seaward across the continental shelf. His areas of interest lie in sedimentation, Quaternary and Tertiary stratigraphy, coastal and mineral resources, and their inter-relationship with the development of human civilization. He has been involved with federal, state and local commissions and teams that worked on technical and mineral recourse issues.

Riggs said he plans to talk about history of flooding and how flooding occurs, not about specific zoning regulations. Riggs said his presentation will be aimed at showing residents how water affects the city, and at helping people understand that the city needs to face the inevitability of water and storms.

“We’re never going to stop them; we’re never going to engineer out of them,” Riggs said. “But we can live with them if we can understand how they they work.

“There’s good places to build on the land and there are bad places to build,” he said.

He said that his presentation will examine natural areas that developers and city planners should avoid because of the inevitable flooding. Primary and secondary floodplains should not be considering for development, he said, and developers especially should avoid non-permeable surfaces in flood-prone areas.

“Rivers have the authority on where that water is going to go; we have to recognize that,” Riggs said. “Just because there’s an empty piece of land beside a stream does not mean that’s a place we should build.

“If we lived by the reality of  how things worked we wouldn’t have disaster after disaster,” he said. “We don’t have to live with disasters.The bottom line is there are limits to building and development.”

Riggs said these lessons are only going to become more important as storms become more abundant and intense.

Contact Seth Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 252-329-9579.