Water control structures to help reduce impacts from fires and flooding at Great Dismal Swamp

Posted at 8:37 PM, Jan 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-09 20:37:44-05

Suffolk, Va. - Controlling water from going out of the Great Dismal Swamp is a big priority for people like Don Schwab.

"The swamp can hold a lot of water if you can keep it in here. But it's just like opening a cork in a bathtub. It just goes out," said Schwab.

Schwab is a wildlife biologist who says more water needs to stay in the swamp.  Why?  He says it will help reduce the impacts of flooding in nearby neighborhoods, like Deep Creek in Chesapeake, and help with wildfires.  In fact, the last wildfire to burn in the swamp was in 2011, all started from a lightning strike.

"We've had fires, and you'll have little fires here and there. But when the soil is wet, it can't burn into the soil," said Schwab, who is referring to peat soil. The peat makes fires hard to contain since the soil can be dry.

When a wildfire happens, homes and communities around the swamp are in danger's way.  So, in order to help reduce the impacts of fires and flooding, 22 water control structures will be installed or replaced in the wildlife refuge.  The money comes rom more than $3 million awarded after Hurricane Sandy funding.

"Holding water and letting it go slower reduces the chances of it flowing downstream, holding water makes the swamp wetter, so it reduces the chances of fires," said Schwab.

While they won't fix the problem completely, Schwab says the structures should help with floods and fires.