Milton looks to 2021 for Magnolia Street drainage project action

September 24, 2020

Milton officials plan to have final design and permitting work ready on an $835,000 drainage improvement project in and around the Magnolia Street parking lot by the end of this year.

The project includes repairs to the bulkhead along the Broadkill River, as well as a rain garden and new infrastructure to reduce nuisance flooding at the parking lot.

A little more than half the cost – $435,000 – will be paid using state funds, with the rest to be paid by the town. On Aug. 31, Milton Town Council unanimously gave its consent to allow Town Manager Kristy Rogers to seek another $100,000 in funding through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Trails grant, further reducing the town’s share, which is being paid through transfer tax reserves. 

Flooding at the parking lot has long been an issue, especially following storms. About a third of the lot is often unusable because it is covered in water. A plan to improve drainage was first introduced in early 2019, calling for a rain garden near Bodie’s Dairy Market, along with new infrastructure to improve water flow. The fixes would cost the town 19 parking spaces and not prevent flooding during a storm, but would reduce day-to-day flooding. 

The project grew to include repairs to the bulkhead along the river when engineers from Pennoni Associates found a 30-inch drain pipe flowing to the river that had collapsed, leading to a loss of soil behind the wall. The wall around the pipe has also become corroded.

Engineers from Pennoni reported to council in February that two sources were likely causing the flooding. First, at high tide and excessive high tides, water backflows into the pipe and gets past the catch basins. Second, during storms, water from upstream overflows the stormwater system and runs into the parking lot. Engineers believe a rain garden, a new pipe and a pump station will decrease the frequency of flooding in the parking lot, which in turn, would shore up the bulkhead.

While council was sold on bulkhead improvements, they were less sold on the parking lot project, as there were no concrete plans for how to replace the lost 19 parking spaces. The existing lot has 52 spaces; the town approached Milton Historical Society about using the land the society owns across from the parking lot to make up spaces, but the society has been wary of putting additional vehicles on that parcel due to flooding concerns and because the society is planning for possible future expansion. 

Council had to make a decision in February before some of the state funding was close to sunsetting. Ultimately, council approved moving forward by a 4-3 vote. 

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