By Autumn Shelton, WV Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Just days before the start of West Virginia’s regular legislative session, members of the Interim Joint Committee on Flooding met to hear updates on various flood mitigation and recovery projects throughout the state.
G.E. McCabe, director of the West Virginia Emergency Management Division, was the first to speak before the committee.
He said that an appeals package will soon be submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following their denial of public assistance flood relief to certain counties. These denials came after a series of heavy rain events caused significant damage between July 12 to Aug. 15, 2022.
He explained that FEMA classified those storm events as four separate disasters. This prevented certain counties from receiving relief because they didn’t meet specific state and county monetary damage thresholds.
After an October review, McCabe stated the state threshold is now over $3.1 million in damages while each country threshold varies depending on population.
The event from July 26-Aug. 1, which impacted Fayette, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming counties was denied, as was the Aug. 10 storm event which impacted Doddridge and Jackson counties, he said. For the Aug. 15 event, which impacted Fayette and Kanawha counties, only Fayette County met both the state and county monetary thresholds for public assistance.
He said they are working with FEMA and the National Weather Service to classify those events into one single disaster.
He concluded that WV Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, the state Department of Highways and others are continuing to assist those who need flood recovery while the state follows the appeals process.
West Virginia State Resiliency Officer Bob Martin spoke next.
Martin said that through the recent congressional passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, the city of Milton (Cabell County) flood risk management project may be moving forward.
The act increased the federal share of project costs from 65% to 90%, he noted, but it is a roughly 4,000 page document they are “still trying to weed through.”
Additionally, Martin said that after 18 years, the statewide Flood Protection Plan has been updated. It will be submitted to legislators the first week of their session.
Martin also stated that a study to find ways of alleviating flooding throughout the 97-mile Kanawha River basin is ongoing.
“It’s a three year study, and it will be half a million dollars a year as a non-federal share that the state would be picking up for it, and also Guyandotte starting a year later – on the upper Guyandotte,” Martin said.
Next, Michelle Penaloza, program manager for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR), WV Development Office, presented an end-of-year update on progress made from the $150 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address recovery following the June 2016 floods.
So far, 99% of the housing projects have been completed as well as 95% of bridge projects and 74% of the demolition projects, according to Penaloza. Also, construction on two multi-family housing projects, Joseph’s Crossing in Nicholas County and Stockton Greene in Kanawha County is expected to be completed in April 2023.
Construction bids on 10 family units, as part of the Restore Riverview Program, in Clendenin are expected to go out soon, with construction complete by April 2024, she continued. Construction on Monarch Village rental units in Clendenin is expected to be complete in April 2023, and construction on the 30-unit Patriot Village in Elkview is expected to be complete by April 2024.
The Town of Clay (Clay County) sewer treatment system, damaged in the 2016 flood, will now be rehabilitated using HUD grant funding, Penaloza continued.
“We are going to make that treatment facility more resilient. We are going to install permanent generators. We are elevating critical, mechanical components at least two feet above baseline elevation, and that also includes the five pumping stations to make sure that system stays working for any other future events,” Penaloza said.
Construction should begin later this year, and the project should take about a year to complete.