The planned new Herbert Hoover High School has cleared the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s environmental assessment process.
Last week, FEMA published a “Finding of No Significant Impact” for the project. The state announced the approval in a news release Tuesday.
A FEMA spokesperson wrote in an email Tuesday that “the project is now in final review, which includes notification to Congress.” FEMA didn’t elaborate on what else is required as part of this final review.
Chuck Smith, the Kanawha County public school system’s facilities planning executive director, said the environmental assessment was “the big holdup.”
Smith said Congress still has to take the final step of approving the funding. FEMA is expected to pay 75-90 percent of the construction, with the state picking up the rest.
The school system demolished Hoover’s former building after it was damaged in the June 2016 flood.
In the 2016-17 school year, Hoover students attended classes in the Elkview Middle building, going in the afternoons while middle-schoolers went in the morning.
Since fall 2017, the high-schoolers have been in mobile classrooms on stilts, built right next to Elkview Middle.
Plans for the new Hoover include geothermal heating and cooling, a football field with the home bleachers built into a hillside, practice football and soccer fields, tennis courts and batting cages.
The planned location, which the school system has already bought from Elkview Baptist Church, is about 240 acres. It’s across Frame Road from a West Virginia Division of Highways location, between the Elkview exit of Interstate 79 and U.S. 119.
Last month, Kanawha schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said he hopes construction will begin in November or December.
On Tuesday, Smith said, “we are still pushing to get this thing out to bid as soon as possible so we can start construction this winter and meet our deadlines.”
FEMA’s Finding of No Significant Impact document says “the Proposed Action would not impact wetlands, hazardous materials, environmental justice, or historic and cultural resources and would not adversely impact threatened and endangered species.”
“During construction, negligible to moderate, short-term impacts to soils and geology, water resources and water quality, air quality, noise, public service and utilities, traffic and circulation, and safety and security are anticipated,” it says.
It says the project “would have minor, long-term impacts on floodplains, terrestrial and aquatic environment, land use, noise, and traffic and circulation.”
The document sets certain stipulations for the construction, including mandating daytime construction, because of noise concerns, and requiring hiring an environmental coordinator.
This coordinator will ensure “erosion and sedimentation structures are working correctly” and will be a “qualified West Virginia mussel surveyor,” the document says. Mussels live in the Elk River.
Smith said the proposed rebuilding of Clendenin Elementary, the other Kanawha school razed after damage from the June 2016 flood, is still in its environmental review stage.
FEMA said a Finding of No Significant Impact has also been given to the plan to combine Richwood Middle and Richwood High — two Nicholas County schools also demolished after the flood — with Cherry River Elementary by expanding that building.
But FEMA said final review on that project is pending a Finding of No Significant Impact on the plan to rebuild Summersville Middle, the third Nicholas school torn down after the flood. The Nicholas school system wants to rebuild that school as a combined middle-high-vocational school on the Glade Creek Business Park, near Summersville.