PARSONS – This past Thursday, Aug. 14, representatives from Governor Underwood’s office, Congressman McKinley’s office, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Tygart Valley Soil Conservation District, Parsons city council, Commissioner Rosenau and the Tucker County Emergency Management and 911 Center met on the Pulp Mill Bottom diversion dike to discuss the current damages and possible solutions for repair.
Bill Leonard, Project Manager for the 581 Flood Prevention program and a representative from the Army Corps of Engineers, was sent to inspect the Pulp Mill Bottom diversion dike. He told us they did extensive research to try to find a way to help the City of Parsons, but currently there is no funding or authority to make repairs available through the Army Corps of Engineers. They are not able to do an engineering analysis either and . Leonard said that getting an engineering analysis would be the responsibility of the City of Parsons.
Part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ evaluation process involves the Benefit Cost Ratio, which means any money spent must result in a greater value to the ACE than they spend before a project can be considered. However, even if funding is found through other sources, before anyone can get into the stream to make repairs a permit must be granted from the Army Corps of Engineers as well as the State of West Virginia. Leonard said getting a permit would take a minimum of six months from either agency. In spite of the damage to the dike, structurally the dike is still sound, according to Leonard.
Aaron Metz, District Representative for Congressman McKinley said they are diligently looking for grant money from two or three different sources to help the City of Parsons. Mary Kate Spears, Field Representative for Congressman McKinley said several appropriations bills had been written, but consideration for approval of the bills could not be any time soon.
The earthen dike that was built in the early 1900’s to protect the lumber mill was overflowed by eight feet and a section was washed away in the ’85 flood. After the ’85 flood the Army Corps of Engineers placed stone at the bottom of the dike where the section of the dike washed out as an emergency measure. However, there was still great concern by the citizens of Parsons about future flooding so Senator Byrd was able to get the Army Corps of Engineers partnered with the Soil Conservation District to do what we see today.
The Soil Conservation District provided funds for design and additional construction. More stone was placed at the bottom, the side was smoothed out and then the Soil Conservation District installed a fabric mat filled with concrete grout that was placed over the compacted earth dike. However, according to the Army Corps of Engineers and the Soil Conservation District, the dike was only engineered to last 10 to 15 years! In 2000, at the end of the 15 year period, the Army Corps of Engineers came back and met with representatives of the City of Parsons. City officials were told at that time they were responsible for making repairs in order for the dike to qualify for future inspection and repair but nothing was done and therefore the dike did not qualify for any more assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers.