Wood County declines offer to take control of Memorial Bridge

Wood County Commissioners top, Bob Tebay, left, and Jimmy Colombo watch as Commissioner Blair Couch, seated, points out sites along the Little Kanawha River in the Happy Valley area to Brian Farkas of the West Virginia Conservation Agency during Monday’s meeting. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Commission Monday voted to, in the words of Wood County Commission President Blair Couch, “pass on the Memorial Bridge and de-obligate our option” of purchase.

The Wood County Commission was offered control of the Memorial Bridge at a commission meeting in January and Monday voted to allow the City of Parkersburg to control its future with the toll bridge. By doing so, it would potentially give the city the ability to sell the bridge via an auction.

“The theory was back in 2001-2003, sometime around there,” said Commissioner Jimmy Colombo, “that if the state took over control of the bridge, they would take over the tolls and the monies which have been built up to replace the bridge, which I think is around $5 million right now.”

Colombo said “divers are down to inspect the base of the bridge every four or five years and it’s always held up well. I’m hoping the city can find someone to take it over and may be build another one, whether they tear it down and build a four-lane bridge or build one beside it.”

The commission also heard from Brian Farkas of the West Virginia Conservation Agency about flooding, flooding control and flooding mitigation.

The Wood County Commission was offered control of the Memorial Bridge at a commission meeting in January. (File Photo)

Part of the reason for the visit by Farkas was to “look at financing for the next fiscal year,” he said, and the “need to have a revision the agreements, which have been long standing agreements between the agency and county commissions.”

Farkas said “West Virginia has 40,000 miles of waterways and 170 high-hazard small watershed dams in the state. High-hazard meaning dams which will kill and cause property damage should they fail to hold.

“There are about 12,000 of these dams across the United States,” he said. West Virginia has 1.65 miles of stream for every square mile of land, 78 percent is covered by forest and is the third most heavily forested state in the nation.

“Most of the people living around an earthen dam don’t realize it is a dam,” he said. “They just think it’s a lake.”

The dams “provide 100-year storm event protection and provide $90 million a year in flood protection,” according to Farkas. “Nearly 60 percent of West Virginia residents are protected by the dams.”

The commission contributes $5,000 yearly and the City of Parkersburg $435 to the stream restoration, bank stabilization and blockage removal services provided by the conservation agency for the Lower Pond Run Channel. The Little Kanawha Conservation District contributes $5,435 to the $10,870 budget.

The City of Vienna contributes $7,908 annually for Pond Run 01 while the City of Parkersburg contributes $160 and the county commission $1,932 for its “10,000 yearly budget.”

The funds help “protect people and property through a variety of methods, including the rechanneling and dredging of streams; removal of accumulated debris, snags, sandbars, rocks and any other kinds of obstructions; and to carry out erosion and sedimentation control measures and programs,” according to the agreement.

Other local contributions include the Mountwood Park/Walker Creek area which the Wood County Parks and Recreation contributes $1,000 to sponsor. The Bonds Creek/Tracy Lake receives $750 from the City of Pennsboro. The City of Pullman contributes $500 for the Pullman Dam and the Ritchie County Commission contributes $5,000 for the North Fork of Hughes River upkeep.

The report stated the Pond Run sediment outlet channel would need sediment removal work with an estimated cost of $8,000, Farkas said. The 13-acre permanent pool was constructed in 1977. The 48-acre Mountwood Park lake was built in 1979.

∫ In other business, the commission was seeking bids for the demolition of a structure at 720 Hill St., which includes the removal of the structure and debris as well as the cleanup at the property. The commission did not receive a bid for the proposed action.