To the Editor:
How incredibly serendipitous that your newspaper of Jan. 23 should headline the flooding and landslides that occurred during the four days of local heavy rains while at the same time highlighting the ongoing review of the Jackson County Steep Slope Ordinance by the Jackson County Commissioners and the County Planning Committee. To add spice to the stew, the column by Mr. Don Hendershot (The Naturalist’s Corner) reported the cuts by the N.C. legislature to the landslide mapping program midway through its work in Jackson County, effectively ending that program and leaving the county without a credible evaluation of the slide risks to current and future homeowners and to infrastructure in our county. Mr. Hendershot indicated the resultant savings from those program cuts saved the state ($1.4 million) while also pointing out that the cost of landslide remediation from a single incident in Maggie Valley has already cost the state that same amount.
Page 6 of the paper reported additional slides in Maggie Valley during the past week at Rich Cove (site of the original slide) and at the head of Soco. No casualties this time excepting a car and a few trees falling on a house. My sympathies to those suffering losses, especially the recently retired couple in Macon County who lost their home of one year to a slide.
I would agree that completion of the landslide mapping project in Jackson County will do nothing for those already occupying potential slide sites, except perhaps to warn those occupants to be aware of the consequences of significant rain events in their locale. For those with plans to build, the map would serve to let those people know that alternative building sites might be safer and much less expensive to them at some point in the future, especially in these “big storm” times. Whether the landslide mapping ever resumes in Jackson County is probably moot, but the results of recent weather events should certainly provide critical advice to the Jackson County Planning Committee as they evaluate the slope and cut/fill thresholds to be used in future home and infrastructure building decisions. Someone’s life may depend on it.
Roy B. Osborn