The N.C. Coastal Federation’s latest effort to stop polluted stormwater from draining into local waters targets Banks Channel in front of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, a favorite launching site for local paddleboarders and open water swimmers.
The federation received a grant to retrofit the hotel’s two outfall pipes that drain into the sound with a contraption similar to the one that almost entirely blocked stormwater from draining into Banks Channel from Iula Street last summer. An underground section of the straight pipe was replaced by a maze of pipe with tiny perforations, allowing water to slowly seep into the ground instead of flowing into the channel.
“We’re thrilled about this project,” said Tracy Skrabal, the federation’s southeast office manager. “They have two outfall pipes that drain their entire property, so this project, based on our success at Iula Street, should greatly reduce the amount of runoff and volume of stormwater that ever even makes it through that pipe.”
When hotel management learned about Iula Street’s retrofitted pipe and the variety of other rain gardens, swales and pervious pavement the coastal federation has created to divert stormwater over the last 18 months, they sought to find out what similar projects could be implemented around the hotel.
Stormwater runoff is the No. 1 cause of water pollution in North Carolina, the coastal federation’s grant application states. The Blockade Runner holds paddleboard events in Banks Channel throughout the year, and general manager Nicolas Montoya said he wants to make sure the participants have a safe environment in which to compete.
The retrofit project is now in the permitting and engineering phase, and Montoya expects it will be finished by Easter — several weeks before the annual Carolina Cup, in which thousands of paddleboarders from around the world will race through Banks Channel.
The Blockade Runner’s retrofitted pipes will also serve a second purpose. A chamber in the retrofits will capture stormwater and store it. Montoya said the hotel would use the water to irrigate its grassy sound-side lawn, and any unused water would seep into the sandy soil.
The coastal federation has so far been limited in efforts to divert stormwater around town because it can’t implement projects on private property. Montoya said he hopes the Blockade Runner can help set an example of how private enterprises can join in the effort to keep local waters clean.
“Hopefully more people can do that, because we’ll need it,” he said. “We want to be a part of a project that helps the community, and all the visitors and the locals that make use of our area.”
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