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FEMA provides $2M for flood mitigation project

PARKERSBURG — Nearly $2 million has been appropriated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of an ongoing flood mitigation project in the Happy Valley area along the Little Kanawha River in Wood County.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that $1,922,410 in funding had been provided by FEMA for the acquisition and demolition of 11 flood-prone residential structures in Wood County.

“West Virginia has endured multiple weather-related disasters in recent years that continue to impact our infrastructure. West Virginians have bounced back from the pain and destruction the 2016 floods caused, but we still have more to do. I have been continuously working with FEMA to advocate for West Virginia to receive funding so that we can rebuild our communities, and now we are advocating for the administration to approve the new cost-share agreement so West Virginia can begin to receive more funding to help our state recover. I will continue to fight to ensure that the federal government is a reliable partner in our ongoing recovery efforts across the state,” said Manchin.

The Wood County Commission, with the assistance of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, has been working for several years to acquire properties in the Happy Valley area and raze the structures on them. It is part of a federal grant-funded flood mitigation program which seeks to reduce the number of insurance claims on frequently flooded properties.

In the past, once the structures are razed and grass replanted on the vacant sites, the county has offered neighbors the chance to lease the land, paying only the amount of taxes owed on the land. Restrictions are placed on the use of the land; no permanent structures can be put up, no utilities can be run, and nothing that impedes floodwaters may be installed.

Fred Rader, community development director with the Regional Council, said the funding announced Friday involves 11 parcels, nine in Happy Valley and two in Seven Acres, just upriver. This is the sixth application the Regional Council has received approval for, he said, adding only a few parcels remain where owners have chosen not to participate in the voluntary buyout program.

“It’s wonderful; these people can’t receive flood insurance,” said Wood County Commission President Blair Couch about the funding announcement by Manchin.

Gov. Jim Justice also released a report about the FEMA funding on Saturday. The grant funding, in response to the June 2016 Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, is part of the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The purpose of HMGP is to enact mitigation measures reducing the risk of loss of life and property from future disasters, Justice said.

The removal of the structures will reduce future flood loss and National Flood Insurance Program payments as well as the need for emergency and medical response during flood events.

“This funding allows us to remove more West Virginia families from harm’s way,” said Justice. “Projects like these save our citizens money and free up assets to allow us to help more people during emergencies. We thank our federal partners for their help in getting us this funding.”

Wayne Towner can be reached at wtowner@newsandsentinel.com

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