Randy Yohe Published

State Resiliency Leader Says Office Lacks Expertise To Obtain Federal Flood Mitigation Money

A road washed out by heavy floods.
Heavy flooding along Witcher Creek near Glasgow, West Virginia in August 2023.
Courtesy of Glasgow Mayor Don Fannin

Melissa Roberts is the executive director of the American Flood Coalition, a national nonprofit dedicated to finding flooding solutions. She told the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding in an interim meeting on Sunday that there is more federal funding available for flood mitigation than ever before. She said the matching money is in the billions of dollars. 

“Right now, with these programs, often $1 of state investment put up can bring down anywhere from $5 to $7 to $9 of federal investment,” Roberts said. “We’re also seeing that some states that have had a head start like Texas, and Florida and Louisiana, are really getting an outsized share. But this opportunity still exists.”

West Virginia State Resiliency Officer Bob Martin wants to take that opportunity. He told committee members he has several projects planned and ready, but his office is challenged with organizational bureaucracy hurdles to apply for grants and federal funds.

“Currently, we can’t, partly because most of the federal dollars right now are going to other agencies,” Martin said. “There are grants out there for economic development and some of them have to do with resiliency and have to do with flood mitigation, have to do with storm water, and how those are integrated into those programs.”

Martin said he sees it as the office’s duty to get that federal money for state projects and put the money to work. He said he’s working with several agencies, with grant writers and legal teams, to better obtain grants and federal funds. 

“Some of the funds that are out there, like say a storm act, here’s some different pieces of that act, that you have to have the funds available already to apply for it,” Martin said. “If you don’t have the funds in an account, you can’t even apply for the grant. I’m not a grants guy. I’m trying to work my way through those and read them, but it’s like reading hieroglyphics.”

Flood Committee members voted to help find solutions to the challenge and recommended grant assistant programs at Marshall University and West Virginia University that are available to help the Flood Resiliency Office. 

Martin said that he believes by the end of 2024, if not sooner, his office will have the expertise and resources to go from an organizational phase to executing flood mitigation projects.