This month, several hundred floodplain managers from around the state will gather in Wrightsville Beach to discuss best practices in reducing the impact of stormwater runoff.
Such runoff is the “No. 1 source” of coastal pollution in North Carolina, according to Tracy Skrabal, manager of the southeast regional office of the N.C. Coastal Federation. “We’ll be showing them a dozen different techniques that hopefully they can incorporate into their work,” she said.
Larry Sneeden, president of Wilmington’s Coastal Stormwater Services
, plays a pivotal role in such decisions.
A civil engineer and project manager with decades of experience in the design, permitting, construction, maintenance and repair of stormwater systems, Sneeden is considered by many to be the “go-to” for both new construction and retrofit projects. He also plays a leading role in restoring wetlands across the region.
Founded in 2010, Coastal Stormwater Services counts conservation groups, municipalities and private property owners among its clients.
As stormwater runs off roofs or flows across roads and parking lots, it collects bacteria and other pollutants. Over the past 10 years, Sneeden has directed multiple projects in Wrightsville Beach to reduce or eliminate such runoff headed for Banks Channel. He’s done so by installing permeable pavement and by disconnecting street and parking-lot drains from stormwater outfall pipes, pushing runoff into the ground to be filtered.
Better water quality for swimming, fishing, marine life and commercial harvesting is the result.
“He’s constantly looking for ways that we can be more innovative and cost-effective,” Skrabal said.
Project partners in stormwater remediation engineered by Sneeden include the town of Wrightsville Beach, Hanover Seaside Club and Blockade Runner Beach Resort.
In less populated areas, agricultural activity remains high on the list of human pursuits affecting wildlife.
To counter such impact, Sneeden is continuing work on a five-year wetlands restoration spanning eight sites and 8,000 acres across Bladen, Carteret, Halifax and Hyde counties.
Working with the coastal federation and the National Resources Conservation Service, a unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sneeden is overseeing a restoration initiative that helps farmers return land that they had drained and ditched back to its original state.
Overseeing the initiative in the field and from his office at business incubator tekMountain, Sneeden hand-picks engineering firms, reviews their designs, and assesses the quality of ensuing construction work.
Kathryn Pohlman, chief sustainability officer at University of North Carolina Wilmington, who is collaborating with Sneeden on plans for on-campus stormwater remediation, believes his commitment to restoring wetlands and controlling stormwater is vital to the region.
“It’s not only the beauty of where we live, it’s also the economy,” she said.
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