Roanoke City Council approves additional funding for stormwater management

$1.6 million will go toward drainage issues after flood last Thursday

ROANOKE, VA – Clarification: 

The City of Roanoke has asked us to add a clarification to this story. We did not mention that the $1.6 million approved by City Council Monday, as well as a state funding match, will go toward the purchase of property on Heatherton Road in the city to build new storm water drains. The city does not have the money for those drains yet, and the drains would not have any impact on flooding downtown, like what was seen last Thursday.

Original Story:

Roanoke City Council approved another $1.6 million to go toward storm water management Monday. This comes after downtown flooded last week for the fourth time since June of last year. The water covered streets, businesses, and partially submerged cars, and this time, a member of City Council actually had their property flooded.

"We have to address it, because it's a real issue," said Council Member John Garland.

Garland says last week, he too fell victim to the rising waters.

"We thought we were safe because we raised the building up from flood protection up another foot and a half, but it still came into the building and it flooded several apartments that we just finished renovating," said Garland.

Now, Garland is looking at thousands of dollars in damage.

"Drywall damage, floor damage, just the ills that come from having water in an apartment," said Garland.

But Garland says the brooms and sandbags that come out every year can't be a permanent solution, and City Council agrees. In addition to the $1.6 million approved Monday, the state is matching another $1.6 million, and the Storm Water Fee is bringing in another $1 million this year. But it's a drop in the bucket for the city's current $87 million in unfunded drainage projects over the next five years.

"It's not that we're sitting here on our hands not doing anything, it's that we're constrained by financing," said Council Member Ray Ferris.

At the meeting, City Manager Brian Townsend discussed ideas the city is considering.

"Would pumping water to some areas or towards some areas help with the rate of flow during high flow times? That's something we need to look at, but pump stations are very expensive to build and expensive to maintain," said Townsend.

But Garland says, if people can institute things like pervious pavement and rain-guards on their own properties, it might help long-term.

"If the city can work with homeowners and developers to come up with a scheme that will do those small incremental things, and that's going to be the answer," said Garland.

Council says the real problem with the drainage is the city's outdated sewer system that runs through downtown, but the city doesn't currently have the millions necessary to fix it, and leaders don't want to close Campbell Avenue down for a year of construction. City staff will be studying other solutions this summer and will present them to council at a retreat this fall.