WV House passes flood protection planning bill

Gazette-Mail file photo

The House of Delegates on Saturday approved a bill aimed at jump-starting the process of trying to protect West Virginians from future flooding and reduce damage to lives and property from floods that do occur.

House members voted 96-0 in favor of the bill, with delegates standing during the vote in honor of victims of the June 2016 floods, which killed 23 people.

The legislation now goes to the Senate.

House Bill 2935 creates a State Flood Protection Planning Council, a multi-agency panel that would resume examination of a long-ignored plan aimed at protecting communities across the state from flooding. It would also create a permanent legislative committee that would oversee flood protection, response and recovery efforts.

“I am grateful today for the House of Delegates’ unanimous support for this legislation,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, the bill’s lead sponsor. “I believe this bill, and the committee and council it creates, will be a crucial step forward in improving our planning and mitigation of future disasters.”

The bill appears to be the first significant move by lawmakers this session to revisit a long-dormant “Flood Protection Plan” which was published more than a dozen years ago, but never fully implemented.

Armstead, whose own home was flooded last year, called for the state to reassess the flood protection plan following a Gazette-Mail story that described how a team from various agencies worked for years to write the flood protection plan.

The council created by the legislation would be made up of the director of the Division of Natural Resources, the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, the executive director of the State Conservation Agency, the secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the secretary of Transportation, the adjutant general of the National Guard and the director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The council would be required to review and update the Flood Protection Plan, recommend legislation to reduce or mitigate flood damage and report to the Legislature on such issues.

Absent and not voting on the bill in the House were Delegates Ellington, G. Foster, Hicks and Upson.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1702 or follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.

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