Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Even though the city of Salisbury has plenty of water, North Carolina’s drought conditions continue to hold landscaping at the East Innes Street interchange of Interstate 85 hostage.
Installation of the landscaping at Salisbury’s most visible entrance could be delayed now until the fall of 2009.
It originally was scheduled for fall 2007 as the finishing touch on the I-85 widening project that led to the total redesign of the East Innes Street interchange.
But the statewide drought postponed the plantings until this spring, and now the DOT says it’s likely the project could be postponed until “the drought situation across the region improves.”
State planting projects across the state have been put on hold, following a mandate for conservation by Gov. Mike Easley.
In a Jan. 31 letter, Mayor Susan Kluttz asked N.C. Department of Transportation Division Engineer Pat Ivey to expedite installation of the extensive plantings. She expressed concerns about the delays and noted, for example, the city’s sufficient water supply and how the plant materials would help prevent runoff and control erosion.
“We have made an effort to raise this to a high priority,” Salisbury Senior Planner Lynn Raker added.
Rowan County continues to be in an “exceptional drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The N.C. Division of Water Resources reports that of 59 water systems in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin, which includes Salisbury-Rowan utilities, 44 have taken voluntary conservation measures and 15 are in mandatory restrictions.
Salisbury, which depends on the Yadkin River as its water source, has asked its customers to conserve voluntarily.
The city and private contributors already have invested a lot of money in trying to improve East Innes Street’s appearance near I-85.
Salisbury received $335,000 in private contributions for the East Innes Street Gateway streetscape improvements, which included the rerouting of overhead utilities.
The DOT has developed a “Color Canopy Concept” for the East Innes Street interchange.
Joe Morris, planning and community development manager for the city, says it represents the state’s most intensive level of planting design.
It will feature mass planting of canopy and flowering trees, native grasses, perennials and limited turf.
“This level of planting entails a significant budget contribution from NCDOT,” Raker said in a recent memo.
The DOT’s participation is dependent on a municipal agreement for maintenance, which Salisbury City Council approved Tuesday.
DOT will prepare the landscape plans and supervise the bidding, contract and installation. It will require the landscape contractor to maintain the plantings for three years.
The municipal agreement stipulates that the city would take over maintenance responsibilities after three years.
Morris has estimated the annual maintenance costs between $20,000 and $25,000.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or