Letters to the Editor

Don’t weaken floodplain ordinance

To the Editor:

The following comments relate to the ongoing discussion about changing the Macon County floodplain ordinance to allow fill to be added. The answer to the added fill question should be a resounding “no” for reasons that I will cite below. 

I have worked many years as a design engineer, with river experience from drought to flood. For the past 42 years, I have lived in close proximity to the Little Tennessee River at the north end of the county and have seen multiple flood events, including that caused by Hurricane Ivan, which brought the river onto N.C. 28 and Rose Creek Road near my home, not to mention the devastation and tragedy in the Gold Mine Community.

An understanding of what a floodplain is, and what a flood plain does, is necessary to this discussion. A floodplain is an area of approximately uniform elevation, adjacent to a river, that is normally above water level, but during a flood, allows excess water to spread out over a large area. It might be grassland or it might be wooded. In any case, it acts as a buffer during a flood, mitigating the downstream damage.

What use should be made of a floodplain? Agricultural and recreational uses are ideal, where structures are minimal and flood damage negligible. Campgrounds and mobile home parks are reasonable, where vehicles can be moved to safer grounds when flooding is imminent, although I have seen propane tanks and trailers floating downstream during Ivan. Pollution from engine oil, transmission fluid, anti-freeze, liquid propane and more is a secondary, but very real, result of having vehicles vulnerable to flood waters.

Building permanent structures in the floodplain is unwise and should be a no-brainer, yet this continues to occur.

Related Items

What happens when fill — even a small amount such as an access road, a structure pad or a berm — is added to a floodplain? Flood water, which would have spread out, is blocked and added to the downstream rush, increasing the river volume and damage to downriver property. It is another example of human intervention causing a disruption to nature’s normal actions, to our own detriment.

Most restrictive regulations came into being for valid reasons, usually involving the health, safety and well-being of all of us. We see attempts at a national level to gut or eliminate regulations which get in the way of personal or corporate greed for more wealth. Macon County’s floodplain ordinance serves a valid purpose in protecting us all. Do not weaken it.

Doug Woodward


Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.