At the Tuesday, Sept. 12, Commission meeting, Greater Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery Committee (GGLTRC) team member Wayne Brown and Thrasher Chief Engineer Wade McKinney presented a flood mitigation plan for Rainelle to the Greenbrier County Commissioners.
At their request, the commission agreed to serve as the eligible sub-applicant in presenting the proposal to FEMA.
Brown said the Western Greenbrier Development Corporation, in studying the flood mitigation situation in Rainelle, has evaluated the causes for the last three floods in the area, including the flooding that occurred in 2003, 2010 and 2016. From the data, they evolved a plan to mitigate future flooding by digging a channel from Sewell Creek to the Meadow River, designed to double the flow of storm water away from Rainelle.
“We have every reason to believe this plan will work,” Brown said.
The rules of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) demand the hazard mitigation proposal be presented to FEMA via state officials, and, Brown said, the Greenbrier County Commission qualifies as the designated sub-applicant.
Even though Rainelle has grant requests in process for storm drain repairs, McKinney said, the storm water is routed to Sewell Creek. The 2016 flooding in Rainelle was caused, in part, he said, by a low train trestle over Sewell Creek, so that when the waters rose, a dam was created at the trestle that piled up the water, which then backed up and overflowed into the town. The new channel will bypass the trestle and only come into use when creek waters rise over a weir, drawing the overflow to the Meadow River. McKinney said the channel will not prevent future flooding but will slow the rise of water and help mitigate drainage.
Not including the purchase of the land for the channel, the estimated costs for the construction phase of the project is $623,700. Overall, the cost is projected to be $750,000. If FEMA grants the project, Brown said, it will bring money into the county.
Displaying a map of the area, McKinney said the site of the projected channel to the Meadow River is exactly where the Sewell Creek had at one time entered the river. He said the beds of both Sewell Creek and the Meadow River had been rerouted back in 1966 for the construction of a new rail track and trestle across the Meadow River. As a result of the reroute, Sewell Creek now feeds into the river at a right angle. He said the floods of 2003, 2010 and 2016 might not have affected the town of Rainelle as severely as they did had that change never been made.
Brown went on to say, the cost benefit of the channel is believed to be in the 50 to 100-year flood range, but in consulting with the United States Weather Bureau, the only certainty they guaranteed regarding flooding is that the future will only bring more extreme weather conditions, and depending on what direction flooding waters come from, the effect will likely cover wider areas with more damages anticipated, Brown reported.
The Greater Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery Committee’s mission, as stated on their website, is to ensure the safety and well-being of Greenbrier Valley citizens in all phases of disaster. Since the 2016 flood, the Greater Greenbrier LTRC has coordinated leadership to assess and meet the present and future needs of disaster survivors and provided financial assistance and service-related assistance to residents and businesses whose needs are unmet by existing relief systems. They are headquartered in Lewisburg with case managers stationed in White Sulphur Springs and Rainelle, two of the hardest hit areas.
In other business:
- Former Lewisburg Public Works Director Mark Carver was approved by the commission to fill a vacancy in the county assessor’s office. He will be the field appraiser for Assessor Joe Darnell.
- Brittany Powell was approved as the 4-H Extension Office Program Assistant to replace retiring Kay Davis, according to 4-H Youth Development Agent Robin Haynes.
- County Commission Clerk Kelly presented Aimee Boggs as a new hire consideration for the courthouse security position recently vacated by James Shortridge. The commissioners approved the submission.
- Veterinarian Dr. Donna Piercy was approved to serve on the county’s board of zoning appeals.
- Commission President Woody Hanna stated that since the adoption of the towing policy for the county in August, the commission has received several calls concerning the policy’s insurance requirements from both towing companies and insurance agents. The minimum insurance requirements are considered too high and thus limit profits, the complaints state. Specifically, the change considered by the commission is to lower some of the automobile liability policy minimums from $750,000 to $100,000. The commissioners agreed at the time the towing policy was established, that changes to sections of the policy would be needed. “It’s part of the process,” said Commissioner Mike McClung. Commissioner Lowell Rose said the entire tow policy will be reviewed at the May 2018 meeting of the 911 Advisory Committee meeting.