West Virginia elected officials, residents, business owners and members of local, state and federal agencies celebrated a project April 28, 2014, that will reduce damages resulting from flood events in Logan County.
The Island Creek Local Protection Project, a nearly $39 million channel modification endeavor and flood warning system is designed to bring a much needed reprieve from the damages of all too frequent flooding in Logan, explained Project Manager Sherry Adams.
"I can't tell you how stressful it is for a small business owner to keep operations going when you run the risk of losing everything to floods year after year," said Jesse Queen, proprietor of Stereo Video Unlimited.
Queen described numerous incidents when he and his staff hustled frantically to secure audio visual equipment as flood waters gushed into his Logan store, submerging the shop in up to eight feet of water. Other residents described cars floating like boats and personal property from basements and garages flowing freely down inundated streets.
"I am grateful to everyone who made this project happen," said Queen. "Everyone who cared enough about Logan to help us."
Much more than caring was needed to get the Island Creek project off the ground. Natalie McKinley, regional economist, explained that she and her colleagues needed to demonstrate the project would be a good investment of federal dollars. Through a careful cost-benefit analysis, McKinley and others were able to show the project was indeed a wise and beneficial undertaking for the nation.
But there was another challenge, too. Although the project had been authorized through Section 401 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 and various studies and assessments had been completed, the project was put on hold due to lack of non-federal sponsorship.
A non-federal sponsor, such as state and municipal agencies, as well as the funding non-federal sponsors bring to the table were needed for the Island Creek project to move forward.
The Logan County Commission, the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and The West Virginia Conservation Agency, Guyan District, answered the call and became the non-federal project sponsors. They provided lands, easements, rights-of-way, relocations and disposal sites as well as nearly $2 million. Construction of the project finally began in 2010 and was completed in May 2014.
"It's not just about the flooding; it's about the people and their anguish after each flood event. The recovery is never easy for residents or business owners, so this project is money well spent," said John Oblinger, treasurer at the Guyan Conservation District. "We are grateful to the Corps of Engineers for their expertise and support and are hopeful this project is going to relieve the anguish folks in Logan have suffered over and over again."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a native of Logan County, and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV3) attended the dedication ceremony and praised residents and business owners for their support and courage and also thanked all the agencies involved in making the project a success.
Both noted that without strong collaborations among many stakeholders projects like Island Creek would be hard to complete.
The project included widening the Island Creek channel to an 80-foot bottom width for a distance of 3,600 feet upstream of its confluence with the Guyandotte River.
Along the channel reach, a post and panel retaining wall and sloped bank lined with stone slope protection and concrete revetment will stabilize the creek bank behind adjacent commercial structures.
The project also includes removal of an existing sandbar and implementation of a flood warning system.
Heeter Construction Inc., a West Virginia-based Historically Underutilized Business Zones small business, was selected to perform construction of the project.
"There were many times I thought about giving up, but I am happy I've managed to stay in business over the years and I have to thank my friends, family, neighbors and customers for their support," said Queen. "This is a great day we are celebrating. It's a day of relief for business owners who won't have to worry about being flooded whenever it rains."