Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reynolds Mountain, Western North Carolina Mountain Slope Development

A view of Reynolds Mountain under construction.
Photos compliments of Southwings

During a March 21, 2006 Buncombe County formal session, Buncombe County commissioners discussed safety regulations for expansive slope side developments. During the public hearing Gary Higgins, Director of the Soil and Water Conservation District, told the group "We are not opposed to development in Buncombe County, but what we are concerned about is that as you move up steeper slopes you cannot apply the same rules of construction that you do lower down. They are more likely to erode and cause downstream problems." Building homes and roads on steep slopes results in extreme rates of soil erosion Higgins said, and erosion-control measures are not as effective on these settings. In addition, it's "very difficult to establish ground cover on such areas because excavation goes down into subsoil and such soils are shallow and poor, often with a high mica content." Higgins also said that excavation cuts going down to bedrock create slowly permeable surfaces where runoff is greatly increased.

Higgins displayed a group of slides illustrating these problems in an "unnamed development." Higgins said these photos show that "there is tremendous sloughing and slipping of impacted slopes." The slides also included pictures of early construction sites on Reynolds Mountain. Higgins predicted that "the likely effect of such high-density development is to cause landslides."

For more information about the Commission hearing, please see Cecil Bothwell's article "Steep canyon rearrangers" in the March 29, 2006 issue of MountainXpress.

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