Preliminary work begins on restoring Rainelle flood-control channels

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West Virginia Conservation Agency watershed technicians wade into freezing waters in Rainelle’s Sewell Creek Channel to take elevation measurements. The measurements will be compared to as-built drawings to determine how much sediment has accumulated in the channel.

The West Virginia Conservation Agency has begun preliminary work to restore flood control channels in the Western Greenbrier County town of Rainelle, which was devastated by flooding in June.

The Sewell Creek and Boggs Creek channels were built between 1959-1961, and have had little maintenance in the years since. Over time, sediment has accumulated and the channels have become overgrown with brush and small trees.

With help from the West Virginia National Guard, the WVCA will remove the brush, trees and sediment, increasing the channels’ capacity and restoring them to as-built conditions.

Watershed technicians began recording elevation measurements on the channels in January. These measurements will be compared to the channels’ original designs to determine how much sediment has accumulated, and how much erosion has occurred along the banks.

“We are thrilled to receive this assistance from the West Virginia Conservation Agency and the National Guard,” Rainelle Mayor Andy Pendleton said. “Just seeing the field staff in their work vests along the channels this week has given hope to a lot of people.”

Once restored, the channels will be better suited to handle flood waters and divert them away from homes and businesses.

“We want to be clear that the extreme flooding in Rainelle last June was not a result of the sediment or growth along these channels,” said Brian Farkas, WVCA executive director. “This was classified as a 1,000-year flood and it would have overwhelmed the channels even if they were in pristine condition.

“However, this much-needed work will ensure that the channels perform as they were originally designed to perform.”

The devastating flood could have been significantly worse if not for the channels. Pendleton remembers when the channels were built, and she said the benefit to the town was obvious.

“I remember we used to flood all the time and then one day we didn’t flood anymore,” she said.

One mile of the Sewell Creek Channel and more than 3,000 feet of the Boggs Creek Channel will be restored as part of the project.

The West Virginia National Guard will provide vehicles and Guardsmen to assist with brush and sediment removal.

“Teaming with such organizations as the West Virginia Conservation Agency are critical to West Virginia National Guard’s efforts for the long term recovery for the state,” said Lt. Col. Melissa G. Shade, public affairs officer for the Guard.

WVCA hopes to begin work on the project in late May.