A number of studies were set in motion after the July 2001 floods. (See Story) This summer of 2002, saw recommendations from the three major studies.
One was the study by the Department of Environmental Protection that found mining and timbering did contribute to the flooding. It recommends tighter controls, and as of the end of August was awaiting approval by Gov. BobWise. (See story)
When the floods hit last summer, a task force of more than two dozen federal and state agencies was already looking at ways to protect communities from flooding. It had several week-long study sessions and, in August, presented a wide-ranging preliminary plan to the Legislature (See story). Comments are being accepted until Sept. 5, 2002. (Click Here to see complete recommendations.)
The task force has presented a holistic plan that would provide many levels of protection. It calls for more rain gauges and quicker flood warnings. Better building codes would result in more flood-proofed dwellings. Flood plain maps need to be updated. . FEMA should stick to its schedule of flood-plain monitoring.
Though residents believe streams are full of silt from mining, timbering and other types of construction and, therefore, don't hold the volume of water they did decades ago, the task force is adamantly opposed to dredging. Stream protection, however, is very important. It recommends a stream quality summit, as well as a wetlands summit in 2003. The practice of draining sewage from houses in floodplains to the streams must be eliminated before residents return to flooded homes.
Development is discouraged in flood plains, and those living in flood plains should be encouraged to move to higher ground through buy out offers and education. Each county should have a flood plain manager
One of the more controversial early recommendations was to prohibit any additional runoff from construction, mining or timbering, just as additional pollution from new activities is prohibited. This was modified somewhat to a recommendation that controls be put on runoff by DEP.
There is a suggestion that the watersheds be assessed for the possibility of upstream drainage retention basins, in other words, dams. And another recommendation is for a centralized database of all flood damage, coded with the latitude, longitude and elevation.
DISASTER RECOVERY BOARD
The group with the least coverage is the Disaster Recovery Board. It set out to see if something better could be created out of the flood disaster. In late August 2002, consultants presented a radical plan (see story) that would expand McDowell and Wyoming Counties on higher ground left from surface mining in the area northeast of Welch and southeast of Pineville.
The consultants determined that only four of the 13 communities in the two counties were truly viable: Mullens, Oceana, Pineville and Welch. Others had such old infrastructure and were so susceptible to flooding that they might not have the resources to survive, and certainly not prosper. Consultants pointed out that the area targeted for redevelopment would be close to the King Coal Highway, and would be midway between Detroit and North Carolina. The prospects of new jobs could encourage residents to leave the older, flood-prone areas of the counties.
The study and proposals are expected to be aired at public hearings in some of the Wyoming and McDowell communities during the fall.