Agency: Funding needed for stream gauges that warn of impending flooding

This comes a year after one of the deadliest floods in West Virginia history

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White Sulphur Springs, WV Courtesy: Courtesy: Chad Agner

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding have heard warnings that West Virginia needs more comprehensive funding for the stream gauges that help warn residents of impending high waters.

West Virginia Conservation Agency Executive Director Brian Farkas told the committee Monday that several state and federal agencies scramble annually to fund a network of stream gauges. The state should provide a "stable stream of funding to one state agency" to protect the program, Farkas added.

This year's current stream gauge network cost is about $1.8 million, with over three-quarters of funding coming from the U.S. Geological Survey and other federal agencies, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

Improving and providing stable funding for the state's flood warning system has been an issue since the November 1985 floods claimed 47 lives in North Central and Eastern West Virginia. The stream gauges also were discussed in a later report by state and federal agencies charged with finding ways to protect West Virginians from the effects of flooding.

The Joint Committee on Flooding was formed under legislation passed earlier this year to revisit that flood-protection report. The committee was tasked with studying "all activities relating to flood protection" and making recommendations "to reduce the reality and threat of future loss of life and property damages associated with flooding."

The legislation also created a State Resiliency Office within the Development Office at the Department of Commerce and a State Resiliency Office Board. The State Resiliency Office oversees all economic and community resilience planning along with implementation efforts including, but not limited to flood protection programs.

The State Resiliency Office Board held its first public meeting Monday, where Farkas was appointed to head a "special committee" to help organize the office and its work.

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