Preston working to better enforce flood plain building regulations

KINGWOOD — Preston County commissioners were updated on changes in enforcing flood plain regulations Tuesday.
County Flood Plain Coordinator Clark Nicklow also promised to return at a future meeting with “some very good news.” He was mum on the details of that announcement.
On Tuesday, Nicklow brought an updated intergovernmental agreement between the county and the Town of Albright for commission approval.
Homes have been built in Albright that aren’t in compliance with flood plain regulations, he said. “We’ve got multiple   issues with structures that were put in without our knowledge. And part of this intergovernmental agreement was for them to communicate with us.”
The county flood control ordinance requires everyone who is building to check with the county Office of Emergency Management first. Those who don’t could find themselves paying more for flood insurance. Sometimes moving a structure a few feet removes it from the  zone.
Flood zones, which were redrawn by FEMA in 2012, are not just by the Cheat River and other waterways. People can build in flood zones, but they must follow guidelines handed down by FEMA. If the county doesn’t regulate flood zones, residents could lose their flood insurance.
“As a county and the smaller communities, we could do a better job of communicating to people to check before you build,” Nicklow said. “It’s much easier to say ‘Hey, you’re in a flood plain and this what you need to do,’ than it is when you put a structure there and then have to mitigate it.”
It’s also cheaper, he said.
Commission President Dave Price noted a structure doesn’t have to be a home. It can be an outbuilding. Nicklow said the  two latest things with FEMA have been structures of  600 square feet or less and propane tanks.
“Because both those things become missiles going downstream hitting houses,” he said.
Updated agreements with all 10 Preston municipalities are in the works, “but due to the importance of this one I’ve brought it,” Nicklow said of the Albright agreement.
County Administrator Kathy Mace said the updated agreements contain the newest language required by FEMA. An addition, Nicklow said, is that each town agrees to send a representative to annual training at the county office, where they will learn the latest requirements for flood plain management.
“Part of the issue we had is that not every town has a liaison to work on flood plain management,” Mace said. “What we’re running into is that no one on the town level — and they’re the ones who take the permits, the building permits and all that kind of stuff — no one on the town level really has the knowledge.”
Town building permits are often the first step toward construction, Mace noted, so it’s important they include info about flood zone regulations.
Some towns are  following the rules of flood plain management. “Rowlesburg’s doing an awesome job,” Nicklow said.  “But for those towns that are in a flood prone area —  you can see the result in southern West Virginia. If a flood happens it’s not overnight that you rebuild.”
But if construction follows flood plain rules, there’s less damage and quicker recovery, he said.
Also at the meeting, Commissioner Samantha Stone provided the latest road report from the State Division of Highways. Stone said paving is wrapping up on W.Va. 26 south, but she doesn’t have a date for when lines will be painted on the road. Work will be done on Oaks Hill of that road to fix a drainage issue, she said.
Stone  also said there will be resurfacing on W.Va. 24 and the Brandonville Pike. And the DOH and Kingwood are working on a drainage issue on North Sigler Street, she said.
“I think it’s pretty good since it’s not the first of June yet, and we’ve probably had more [work done] than the entire year in past years,”  Price said.

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