Opening of Falls Lake Dam has impact far downstream

GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – Water worries extend far downstream from the Falls Lake Dam.

People along the Neuse River and its flood plain are concerned about the expected increase in the river level as more water flows from the dam. Emergency managers and farmers in Wayne County are concerned about what may happen as more rain starts to fall.

“They’ve opened up Falls Dam, which is going to at least keep our river levels high for the next couple of weeks, and then if you were compound that with some additional rainfall events, we’re not out of the woods by no means,” Wayne County Extension Director Kevin Johnson said.

Johnson coordinates the Wayne County Farmers Association, and he said many farmers were still trying to recover from the effects of Hurricane Matthew when days of downpours flooded the county again.

“They’ve been in duress for the last two years. We’ve had low commodity prices, then you throw in some big weather events and farmers just might not survive,” he said.

Parts of Princeton had higher water levels last week than they did during and after the October 2016 hurricane. Some tobacco fields were under one to feet of water. A single field of the crop saw more than $10,000 go down the drain, and that’s one of many.

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Wayne County’s Emergence Management Coordinator, Craig Brown, said he wished the dam in Wake County could wait.

“I understand that they have to release water through the dam to keep their water levels low, but sometimes it affects downstream,” Brown said.

“Blockages will cause water to raise up here in Wayne County, and it seems to be more frequent than it used to be.”

Brown and his colleagues will keep a close eye on how much the river level rises due to the release of water from the dam and the amount of rain Thursday and Friday. A flood warning remains in effect in Wayne County until Saturday morning, and Brown said it could be extended.

A few roads remain closed. People moved barricades out of the way in some places, and drove around them in others, but some of those rule breakers found blue lights flashing behind them when deputies pulled out and pulled them over.

Brown said the stops and citations are for safety; more about protection than punishment.

“We’re not out to make people angry or have them be in trouble, but the barricades are put up for a reason,” Brown said.

“The road may be fine on the top, on the asphalt, but it may be undermined, and collapse with your vehicle weight on it. You may not see it until you’re right up on it.”

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