CHARLESTON, W.Va. – House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, and a bipartisan group of delegates introduced legislation Friday that would establish two bodies focused on creating a statewide flood protection planning program.
House Bill 2935 would establish the State Flood Protection Planning Council and Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding.
Armstead, whose own basement was among those that flooded during last June’s devastating West Virginia flooding, had already expressed support for revisiting a decade-old flood protection plan that was never fully implemented.
Armstead said the devastating June 2016 flood demonstrated the need for better planning.
“This was the worst flood I’ve seen in my lifetime, but it certainly wasn’t the first,” he stated in a release from the House of Delegates. “We need to make sure we, as a government, are doing everything we can to protect lives, prevent flooding and mitigate damage from future floods.”
Armstead is just one sponsor of the bill. The other sponsors are Delegates Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay; Boogie Amber, R-Greenbrier; Jordan Hill, R-Nicholas; Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; and Stephen Baldwin , D-Greenbrier.
The legislators represent areas affected by the flood.
The State Flood Protection Planning Council would consist of the director of the Division of Natural Resources, the executive director of the state Conservation Agency and representatives from the state Departments of Environmental Protection, Military Affairs and Public Safety, and Transportation.
The council would be responsible for coordinating and annually reviewing state flood protection programs, recommend legislation designed to reduce flood damage and provide education on flooding issues.
The council chairman would have to report to a legislative interim committee at least quarterly.
The council would also be required to prepare an annual reported for for the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding, which would consist of 10 lawmakers from both chambers of the West Virginia Legislature. The committee would also be responsible to study all activities related to flood protection.
“While we may not be able to prevent future floods, my goal is that this council and legislative committee will help us establish better warning systems for our citizens and ways to mitigate the severity of future disasters,” Armstead said.
The House Committee on Government Organization will review HB 2935 for consideration.
Armstead, Hanshaw and Ambler have also introduced a bill to provide paid leave to certain state employees who serve as emergency aid providers during a declared state of emergency.
The legislature passed a similar bill during the 2016 session, but it was vetoed by former. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Brad McElhinny contributed to this story.