The recent floods that plagued southwestern West Virginia didn’t just inundate homes.
They also covered riverside boat ramps and public access sites with mud — so much mud, in fact, that it might take several more weeks to clear away.
Zack Brown, federal aid coordinator for the state Division of Natural Resources, said almost all the ramps inundated by flood waters suffered some degree of sedimentation. Seventeen ramps, located mainly along the Kanawha, Elk and Coal rivers, sustained significant damage.
“The problems were widespread,” Brown added. “If you look at the  counties where a state of emergency was declared, that’s where the worst impacts were.”
Some of the problems were relatively easy to deal with — just a few inches of mud that needed to be scraped away — but some of the ramps will require a lot more work.
“Traditionally, we have significant sedimentation at [Putnam County’s] Buffalo ramp,” Brown said. “That one got hit pretty hard this time, too.”
Brown said that when DNR personnel went to assess the extent of the problem, they found mud almost deep enough to bury the handrails along one of the walkways.
“We also got some scouring currents that took out some of the riprap we use to stabilize the banks, and a couple of trees got deposited on the floating dock,” he added.
As they usually do after Kanawha River high-water events, the DNR sent in a contractor to clean up the mess at the ramp. The trees and mud are being cleared away, and Brown said the stone riprap will need to be replaced with larger, heavier rocks sometime in the near future.
The DNR budgets for boat-ramp flood cleanups every year. Some years are worse than others, and Brown described the recent floods as “pretty bad.”
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and there’s a limited number of contractors who can do the work,” he said. “We’re getting on it; fishing season is coming up fast, and people are going to be trying to get their boats out on these rivers.
“The ramp at Buffalo will be open really soon, and we anticipate getting the rest of the ramps open in the next 2 to 4 weeks.”
In some cases, local governments and volunteers are helping to get the ramps clear enough to use. Brown said the officials from the Town of Leon in Mason County are using the town’s own equipment to clear the ramp there. Volunteers are reportedly helping to clear ramps along the Coal.
Even after the ramps reopen, Brown urges anglers and boaters to be careful the first time they use them.
“They really need to watch for things that may have changed,” he said. “There may be damage under the water that we haven’t found out about yet.”