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Drowning a County -- When urban myths destroy rural drainage

Frontcover finalpress20160713 1501 1gylsi
By Carol J. Bova

Drowning a County links myths created by the Virginia Department of Transportation with Mathews County highway drainage failures that are flooding private property, destroying timber crops, damaging roads and endangering the health of residents and of the Chesapeake Bay. Budget constraints decades ago led to reduced ditch maintenance, and VDOT-created myths perpetuated the inadequate attention to essential drainage features. Working from an urban stormwater management perspective, VDOT officials without an understanding of rural watersheds inside the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater consistently failed to follow VDOT’s own maintenance manuals.

Mathews, a rural peninsula with the same population as in 1910, has preserved much of its pre-development hydrology. Its open network of grass-lined roadside ditches used to offer an efficient system of biofiltration and transport of fresh rainfall and adequate sediment through outfall ditches to sustain the County’s extensive tidal marshes and to bring oxygenated water to the county's creeks, rivers and bays.

Drowning a County reveals the origin of the VDOT-myths and offers facts about drainage, sea level rise and elevation in the county, countering incorrect reports with details from sources such as the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Information from the Centers for Disease Control shows the risks of mosquito-borne disease, and other material explores the risks of toxic cyanobacteria in the ditches. Drowning a County includes still-valid recommendations from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report in 1960 and those of a private engineering company hired by the County in 1980, and it discusses the breach in the Winter Harbor barrier beach and its possible restoration.

Available at Mathews Visitors Center on Main Street and in print and Kindle at