CLENDENIN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Legislature Joint Committee on Flooding met Monday with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about flood prevention efforts and how infrastructure responded during the June 2016 flood.
The committee, made up of equal representation from the House of Delegates and the Senate, was created in July to address efforts to reduce the effects of flooding in light of the flood that killed 23 people.
“We wanted to hear from them tonight about what took place and from there, what we might do to mitigate to keep from having a tragedy like this in the future,” said Sen. Ed Gaunch, who serves as one of the committee’s chairs.
Members of the Corps of Engineers held a presentation at the Clendenin Middle School building regarding the operations of dams during the flood, as well as the how to better monitor waterways in the event of future flooding.
Jim Schray, a water management team leader with the Corps of Engineers, said the Summersville and Sutton dams worked as they were supposed to before, on and after June 23, 2016.
“We were able to capture all the water that fell upstream of our reservoirs, specifically in Summersville and Sutton,” he said.
Schray explained the Elk River, which Clendenin sits on, was 50,000 cubic feet per second overbank, causing water to flow into the floodplain. He added without water management, the problem would have been much worse.
“We estimate by capturing that water, we reduced the flooding downstream by 12 1/2 feet in Bellvue, by 8 1/2 feet in Frametown, 2 1/2 feet at Clay and just over 2 feet at Queen Shoals,” he said. “In Charleston itself, we estimate we reduced the flooding there by 7 1/2 feet by capturing the water out of our projects.”
Schray recommended adding additional gauges to allow emergency responders to provide better warnings for residents. It was a recommendation Gaunch took note of after the meeting.
“Probably not to save any property, but save lives,” he said.
Gaunch added he would like more information about when the dam released water, adding the release could have been “premature.”