"It gets a little questionable as to who's obligation it is to clean it," City Manager Sam Grove said. "For want of nobody else that will step up and take responsibility for it, it's falling on our shoulders and we're trying to deal with it."
Public Works Director Bobby Elliott said this week the city has spent about $43,000 of the $50,000 approved by the council in August and the job is not complete. City leaders could soon be voting to bid out two additional projects related to freeing the system of clogs.
But had those problems not existed, flooding still would have resulted from the large storm that sat over Cartersville on July 18, Elliott said. Cartersville's drainage system is not designed to handle a weather event or hammering rain of that magnitude.
"The only question is, Would it have been as bad? Probably not. To what level of reduction, we can only speculate," Elliott said in a recent e-mail to The Daily Tribune News. "Debris did exacerbate the issues, but removing it will not solve the problem when we get a larger storm event."
In an interview this week, Elliott said those obstructions included fallen trees that trapped debris. He shared before clean-up photos showing gravel half filling a drainage pipe and piles of large rocks and gravel obstructing other passageways.
Much of the flooding was concentrated on the west side of the city and downtown along the railroad tracks.
"The issue with this particular basin as compared to all the others in the city, the area is so flat. It takes water a long time to get out. In other words, the steeper, the faster, the shallower, the slower," Elliott said. "When we have a really large rain and the two channels start to contribute to the main channel, it's so flat it starts to back up because it can't get out fast enough and that's been the case forever."
Currently, city officials are working with CSX, which has allowed a contractor to enter railroad right-of-way to perform debris removal, and private land owners to finish cleaning up. They also have another potential project on the horizon -- a parallel drainage ditch on the east side of the railroad track.
"The ultimate goal here is to get this basin to drain better. ... As flat as this thing is, if we get a 5- or a 6-inch rain in an hour, I'm not even sure that would take it all," Elliott said. "The event we had was grossly uncommon as far as the amount of rain we had in a short period of time."
Should that project, now in its preliminary stages, move forward, it would require the cooperation of the railroad and private land owners.