The West Virginia Legislature’s Joint Committee on Flooding met Tuesday morning to consider renewed funding to help mitigate flood damage in the southern part of the state.
Attorney Carl Fletcher of the Government Organization Committee reviewed two potential bills that would see $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds go towards the demolition of buildings destroyed by flood damage.
If passed, the bills would modify the state’s existing Abandoned and Dilapidated Properties Program to expressly include flood-damaged buildings.
“We just wanted to be doubly sure that it could include that, and that was the debate council had and staff had among itself whether we even needed the second bill, but we wanted to do that,” Fletcher said.
The program was initially created under the Department of Environmental Protection in 2021 with the passage of Senate Bill 368, with an initial $10 million in funding being granted under Senate Bill 722 in March earlier this year.
The committee plans to officially recognize the bills during their next meeting in January before the start of the legislative session.
Another topic introduced was the securing of renewed funding of streamgages installed across the state’s waterways. These devices measure water elevation and flow levels in rivers and help detect floods early on.
The state provided $820,000 of the total funding of streamgages in 2022, and it’s expected that state funding could increase to more than $876,000 in 2023, an increase of more than 4 percent. In 2024, the DEP is projecting another 5 percent increase putting funding needs at an estimated $940,000.
“Operational costs have increased. I mean, we see that in everyday life,” said DEP representative Jeremy White. “On our end, travel is expensive, the equipment itself is more expensive, repairs for equipment are more expensive. And in reality, salaries are also more expensive.”
Funding for streamgages became a line item in the state budget in fiscal year 2019, and they provide around a third of total funding alongside the United States Geological Survey and other federal, local and private organizations.