Columbus crews find silt, other debris in watershed drain

The Charter Oaks Watershed didn’t drain properly during a recent flood because it was partially clogged with fishing line, silt, metal and other debris near the inlet, Columbus engineers and other officials learned Friday morning.

Heavy rain filled the watershed and overwhelmed the drain on April 2, flooding three of 11 homes and washing away part of a yard in the 4700 block of Teak Drive. The residents off Schomburg Road were forced to leave their homes until a huge trench was cut to divert flood waters to nearby Cooper Branch.

For more than two weeks, crews have been pumping down the water level to check the drain. The level was low enough Friday to send two workers from the Rainwater Division of the Columbus Consolidated Government in a small boat to check the drain. Using shovels and other tools, they pulled up fishing line, metal, silt and mud from the sides of the drain.

Deputy City Manager David Arrington said the top of the drain remained open but flow was still limited to about a third of its capacity. “It’s just like stormwater inlets on streets in south Columbus,” Arrington said. “A major rain picks up all debris and it flows to the inlet and clogs inlets. The water goes somewhere else.”

City crews were expected to continue pumping water from the pond to get a better look at the sides of the drain.

Based on the findings Friday, Arrington said City Engineer Donna Newman will get with the designers of the watershed to determine if there is an upgrade available. The structure was built 47 years ago by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service. The city has 10 other watersheds like it but they all worked properly during recent heavy rains.

Newman said the problem is not a reason to panic. “Keep in mind, this thing is 47 years old. Let’s not over dramatize this,” she said. “One time in 47 years, we don’t need to panic here but we do need to learn if there is something we can do.”