Author of WV flood protection plan disappointed its recommendations weren’t enacted

Phil Kabler , Staff Writer

One of the authors of a comprehensive state flood protection plan released in 2004 told legislators Sunday it is disappointing most of the recommendations have never been enacted.

“Sad is the word,” William Campbell, retired state watershed conservation director, told a joint meeting of legislative interim committees.

He said the 365-page plan, although probably in need of updates, is still a “treasure trove of good information” for the state.

“It’s time to review state agencies’ roles in flood-protection programs and how our limited resources can be directed to yield the greatest results,” Campbell said.

While the report itself noted it would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” to fully implement the proposals, Campbell said priority should be on floodplain management, enactment of flood-resistant standards in state building codes and improved flood warning systems.

“As citizens, we have to realize when we reside, work and inhabit the floodplains, we do put ourselves at the risk of nature,” he said.

Also during interim meetings Sunday:

Col. Philip Secrist, Huntington District Commander of the Corps of Engineers, outlined how the June 23 flooding would have been much more severe if there were no dams at Summersville and Sutton to control outflow.

Without the dams, flood crests could have been as much as 20-to-25 feet higher in places, causing an additional $175 million worth of damage, he said.

In Charleston, the Kanawha River would have been 7-to-8 feet above flood stage, Secrist said.

“To put that in perspective, some of the buildings in the state Capitol complex would have had water in them,” he said. “The Charleston [Town Center] Mall would have had water in it.”

Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said the June 23 flooding was notable for road damage concentrated primarily in three counties: Kanawha, Clay and Greenbrier.

“The June flood was one of the most devastating events in several regions of the state that they have ever experienced,” he told a legislative interim committee.

Damage was so extensive in the Porter Hollow area north of Clendenin, Mattox noted, that Highways engineers had to use Google Earth maps to get some idea of where the road had been.

The flood caused a total of $55.5 million in damage to state highways, with $15.8 million in Kanawha, $12.8 million in Clay and $7 million in Greenbrier, he said.

However, to put the $55.5 million of road damage in perspective, Mattox noted that in 2015, the state had five flood events significant enough to be declared federal disasters, resulting in a total of $128.5 million in damage to state roads.
“It’s well over $180 million in flood damage to the state in the past two years,” he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304 348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.