Three Years After 2016 Flood, W.Va. Resiliency Office Largely Inactive

On this West Virginia Morning, we have a story about communities along the Ohio River who want to remove some old dams, and we’ll move downstream to discuss flooding.

The Ohio River watershed is dotted with thousands of small dams. Many are remnants of bygone days of grain mills and the steel industry and can be a safety hazard to boats and a barrier to fish. As The Allegheny Front’s Julie Grant reports, there are efforts to remove them and restore free-flowing rivers, but not everyone is ready for it.

Throughout West Virginia, flooding continues to be a growing concern. Communities are still recovering from a major rainfall event that happened in 2016, when the Mountain State experienced some of the worst flooding on record.

In fact, Gov. Jim Justice's office said last week, the state will receive more than $130 million to replace schools in Nicholas County that were destroyed. The money comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. According to a news release, it will be used to replace Summersville Middle School, Richwood Middle School, and Richwood High School. The award also positions West Virginia to seek an adjustment that would allow it to pay only 10 percent of the cost of rebuilding schools in Kanawha and Nicholas Counties.

Experts called the deadly 2016 flood a thousand-year event. Climate scientists say the region can expect more intense rainfall events.

Officials and communities are taking steps to be more resilient. But reporter Brittany Patterson found that a state office created to improve resiliency has stalled. And some observers say the state is still avoiding the important conversation needed about risks created by changing weather patterns.

The Ohio Valley ReSource is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. This story was produced in partnership with InsideClimate News.

West Virginia Morning is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting which is solely responsible for its content.

Support for our news bureaus comes from West Virginia University, Concord University, and Shepherd University.