By Brandi Underwood
An event Friday at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office announced the second sign-up phase of the Dunloup Creek Voluntary Floodplain Buyout.
The project, first implemented in the summer of 2010, has drastically improved the living conditions of many citizens in Fayette and Raleigh counties over the last several years. Due to further funding availability, the project is currently in its second phase of sign-ups, allowing residents who passed on their first buyout opportunity to have a second chance at potentially relocating outside the flood-plagued communities.
The buyout effort is the result of years of research. After several different measures such as dams, channels and floodwalls were considered, it was concluded that the only viable option for completely eliminating flood damages would be a buyout, explained Greg Stone, assistant state conservationist of field operations.
Through participation in the voluntary buyout — which targets threatened properties within the Dunloup Creek Floodplain, an area subjected to repeat flooding incidents — residents can opt to be bought out and then relocate to a home free from environmental flood hazards outside the floodplain.
“With the announcement of this second sign-up, it truly is a tremendous step forward,” said Rep. Nick Rahall, who has been a strong supporter of the floodplain buyout since its beginning phases.
“This has ramifications beyond just our local neighborhoods,” Rahall said. “This has ramifications and repercussions across New River Gorge Country.”
The project, which involved innovative project financing from many different funding sources, got off the ground with the initial request of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd for $2.6 million, Rahall explained.
From there, more than $13 million of funding was amassed through different means, including more than $10 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“With this funding mechanism today, we truly have set a model for many communities in southern West Virginia,” Rahall said. “There are dozens of communities with no feasible engineering or structural solutions for flooding, and if a floodplain buyout works in their watershed, why can’t it work in other watersheds across our region and across our state?”
The communities of Kilsyth, Mount Hope, Glen Jean, Red Star and Harvey have changed significantly since the program’s beginning, according to a release from NRCS.
Approximately 300 properties are located within the 203-acre area included in the voluntary floodplain buyout, and to date, 117 homes have been acquired and removed from the floodplain so they are no longer subject to flooding, a release stated.
Stone said all 198 applications received during the first phase of the sign-up will be assessed, adding that the NRCS continued to take applications after the end of the first application process, which resulted in 50 additional applications to the buyout program.
Those properties will be considered during the second sign-up phase, as well as each additional application submitted, Stone said.
The average acquisition cost per house is $82,385, as well as applicants receiving an additional $30,000 as a relocation incentive, a release stated.
“The good news is that almost all of the people that have moved out of Dunloup Creek have stayed in the area,” said Stone. “Many of them that were living in Mount Hope have moved to other houses in Mount Hope, so we have not much of a net loss from this project, and that’s been exciting.”
Properties acquired through the buyout are placed in public ownership with either the Fayette County Commission or the City of Mount Hope, depending on where the land lies. No further structures can be constructed on the floodplain land, which helps to restore natural floodplain functions. In the long run, those benefits improve the aesthetics, water quality, streambank stability, and fishery and wildlife habitats.
Funds are available through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program administered by the NRCS, the release said.
“This is a tremendous, positive development for the communities involved, the people involved, our state and for the future of this area for generations to come,” Rahall said.
The second sign-up will be open through noon Dec. 2. Applications are available at the NRCS Field Office, at 463 Ragland Road in Beckley. For more information, contact Stone at 304-255-9225.
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