Wood County Commission to continue flood mitigation program

Tim Meeks, left, and Fred Rader of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council appeared before the Wood County Commission on Monday to discuss the Flood Mitigation Resolution to continue to participate in a FEMA program that buys flood prone properties in the area. The program has been used to buy up properties in the Happy Valley area along the Little Kanawha River where flooding occurred over the last several years. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

Tim Meeks, left, and Fred Rader of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council appeared before the Wood County Commission on Monday to discuss the Flood Mitigation Resolution to continue to participate in a FEMA program that buys flood prone properties in the area. The program has been used to buy up properties in the Happy Valley area along the Little Kanawha River where flooding occurred over the last several years. (Photo by Brett Dunlap)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission is continuing with a federal program to buy up properties in flood-prone areas.

The commission unanimously reapproved the Flood Mitigation Resolution to continue to participate in a FEMA program that buys flood prone properties. The program has been used to buy up properties in the Happy Valley area along the Little Kanawha River where flooding occurred over the last several years.

Fred Rader and Tim Meeks from the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, which administers the program locally, appeared before the commission Monday to talk about the program.

“The latest round will include most of the properties in Happy Valley and a few in Seven Acres,” Rader said.

The latest phase would be for around $1.6 million for the properties.

The program buys properties that are repetitively flooded and have had multiple flood insurance claims paid out or have had to be saved through disaster relief efforts.

“Wood County has been successful through five previous phases with Happy Valley,” Rader said.

The process involves acquiring the property, doing the asbestos testing, doing the demolition and it becomes open space after that.

“It removes that person from harms way,” Rader said. “It gets them off flood insurance.

“Over the long run, it ends up saving money because it removes a property that has repetitive flooding issues.”

There are around 15 properties left in Happy Valley that have not been purchased, Meeks said.

“We have seven that would be covered in this current application,” he said.

There are two additional properties being considered for purchase in the nearby Seven Acres area.

Rader said the cost of purchasing the property would end up saving money if a property owner had to file multiple flooding claims in the future.

Commission President Blair Couch said the program allows people to sell off property that otherwise would be difficult to get rid of because of regular flooding.

“It is a lifeline for people who want to move out of those areas where there is no interest from people to buy those properties,” he said.

Rader said back to back floods in September 2016 and January 2017 locally got a lot of people interested in being bought out.

Once the properties are bought and cleared, they let nature reclaim them.

There is talk of turning the area into a park area with public access to the river for recreation opportunities once enough contiguous properties are bought up or to let nature reclaim the land. They also talked about having a number of trees planted down there help reclaim the land.

The commission oversees the program. The county is already spending a lot of time and expense to mow a number of lots down there, officials said.

“Returning to nature would be ideal, because right now we are sending four to five guys down there twice a month to mow all of those,” Couch said.

In other business:

* The commission awarded a bid for equipment compatible for use with the West Virginia State Interoperable Radio Network for E-911. County Administrator Marty Seufer was told by 911 Director Rick Woodyard the bid for equipment to expand the county’s public safety and emergency communications network in the southern part of the county to improve communications met all of their specifications

The bid from Sunny Communications Inc. of Lakewood, Colo., was for $30,000 with $775 shipping. The commission approved the bid unanimously.

* The commission swore in Wood County Deputy Sheriff Taylor Kellyn Phillips and Home Confinement Officer Tabitha Nichole Hewitt.

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