City thanks Iraq-bound officer

Published 6:58 am Friday, May 15, 2009

FRANKLIN—One of the key players involved with the effort to install a system of gauges along rivers in the Chowan River Basin was recognized by the City Council on Monday, just weeks before he ships out for military duty in Iraq.

U.S. Army Col. Dionysios Anninos, district engineer for the Norfolk District of the Army Corps of Engineers, was presented a copy of a resolution by the City Council and a key to the city in recognition of his efforts.

According to the Corps, Anninos will take command of the Corps’ Gulf Region Division Central District, located in Baghdad, on July 7. It will be Anninos’ third tour of duty in the country.

“I’m looking forward to that assignment, but I will miss this assignment down here,” Anninos said.

In October, the Corps began a $90,000 project in the basin, installing six stream gauges at locations along the Meherrin, Nottoway and Blackwater rivers.

“The gauges will be a system of stream, rainfall and water quality gauges,” said Mark Mansfield, the chief of planning and policy from the Corps’ Norfolk District. “It will in effect be a network. While it does not stop the flooding, it does predict it in a more effective way. So we can move citizens and rearrange property before floodwaters get to a point where we have issues.”

Mansfield added, “We’re very committed to the citizens of Franklin, as well as the rest of the citizens of the basin. This gauging network is very important to get in the ground, and then to look at some of the root causes (of past flooding).”

According to Mansfield, comprehensive study of the basin will begin on June 1.

Mayor Jim Councill said the city “wanted to do something to thank (Anninos) for his commitment to Franklin and the Chowan River Basin effort.”

Councill then told Anninos, “I hope you will put this (resolution) in your scrapbook. I’m sure you have many, many. But we want you to know how much we appreciate what you’ve done for us.”

The Blackwater, Nottoway and Meherrin rivers are all part of the Chowan River Basin, which is about 130 miles long and drains an area of 5,000 square miles in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.

Local elected officials, especially U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, have been pushing Congress to fund a more comprehensive study of the watershed, which since 1998 has had record flooding six times.

Hurricane Floyd was the flood of record in 1999, followed by the flood in October 2006. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 was ranked fifth-highest.

Southampton, Greensville, Sussex, Surry and Isle of Wight counties and the cities of Franklin and Emporia, together provided $45,000 toward the Corps’ project study in October. The federal government paid for the other half.

Some possible explanations for the floods include consecutive weather events, fallen trees, encroachment from development, the accumulation of silt in tributaries and reservoirs or a combination of these.