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Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. Project Manager Andrew Darnell shows where the two ponds and pads would be placed on the properties at Thursday's commission meeting.

County learns Wellness Complex’s floodplain issues can be remedied without causing water to rise on nearby properties

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission has learned they can fill parts of the Upshur County Wellness Complex, located off the Brushy Fork Road, without causing water to rise on adjacent properties.

At the commission’s Thursday, Jan. 21 meeting, Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. presented that finding to the commission following the conclusion of a hydrologic and hydraulic study, commonly referred to as an H&H study.

Although the commission and Upshur County Development Authority, each of whom own properties in the area, have not yet determined how the land will be used – one possibility that’s been mentioned is youth soccer fields – discussions on the topic are expected to take place in the near future.

Commissioners approved commissioning the study in June in order to determine if the land could be developed because at least six-and-a-half acres existed in the floodplain. The study was done by the Bridgeport-based firm, Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc.

CEC Inc. project manager Andrew Darnell outlined the purpose of the study.

“Basically, our task was to perform a flood study for the potential future development of two properties along Brushy Fork; one property is located on the north side of the stream and one is on the south side,” Darnell explained. “The northern property is owned by the Upshur County Development Authority with an area of about 19.4, acres, [and] the southern property is owned by the Upshur County Commission and is about 13.3 acres.”

Both properties were located in the 100-year floodplain, so an H&H study had to be completed to study the velocity of the water, if it floods, and how much water inundates the area. The study also determined how much the county would be able to fill the area and not cause more than a 1 percent rise in the determined base flood elevation on the two properties or any neighboring properties.

“We have approximately six-acre pads, one on each site, and what we tried to include in our model was a worst-case scenario, at least in terms of placing the maximum amount of fill on the properties to maximize the building’s area,” Darnell said. “Based on our proposed model, placing those pads will cause a water level increase of almost nine inches under the 100-year storm event, so just placing the two pads there by themselves, that increase would actually continue upstream and raise the water levels on the properties to the west.”

However, Darnell said that situation could be remedied.

“In order to offset that, we’ve included [in the proposal] two storage ponds excavated, one on each property,” he added. “They [would be], on average, about two-to-three-feet deep and the northern pond [would involve] about 6,500 cubic yards of excavation, and the southern about 8,300 cubic yards of excavation. With the addition of the ponds, we see it goes to a zero-increase right at our property line, so we show no effects to the 100-year water levels on the western properties. Similarly, we also show a zero-increase on the properties to the east, along the unnamed tributary.”

Each “pad” or segment of fill would essentially give the county and/or the Upshur County Development Authority six acres on which to build.

Terri Jo Bennett, Upshur County addressing and mapping, building permit and floodplain coordinator, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, will allow anyone to fill a piece of property as long as there isn’t more than a 1 percent rise on any adjacent properties.

“We are causing an absolute zero impact on anybody else’s property, so we could raise it [and we would] cause a rise on other properties, but we chose to do it this way so there is an absolute zero impact on any property owners upstream or downstream from the property and the Development Authority property,” Bennett said.

The team from CEC provided a draft rendering of three soccer fields on the Wellness Complex land to show the commission what that could look like, but Bennett said both parties – being the commission and the Upshur County Development Authority – will have to decide on a concrete plan before submitting anything to FEMA for approval.

“In order to place the first dump truck load of fill out there, you would have to get a conditional letter of map revision from FEMA, so you have to have a true design as to what you want to do to present to them, to know this is the amount of fill that is going to go in and what we plan to do with it,” Bennett explained. “Then, FEMA has to approve it before you can actually place the fill, so all of this work is still contingent upon that final approval from FEMA.”

Bennett said if the proposal is approved by FEMA, several steps would still need to be taken before the fill could be placed and any excavation could take place.

“If [FEMA] does approve [the proposal], then you have to get the permits from the city, then you start the work, and then once it’s done, you have to resubmit everything to FEMA to say that you basically drew it to the design that you presented, and then they will revise the map to show that those sections of the floodplain are now above the base flood elevation.”

Commission president Kristie Tenney asked the team from CEC to come back for a meeting with Rob Hinton, executive director of the Upshur County Development Authority, to decide on the next steps for the project, and they agreed. Hinton said he would have more information soon, so Tenney asked him to get in touch when they are ready to move forward.

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