Preparedness & Recovery

Mayor Says FEMA Should Rewrite its Standards on Restoration

'I’m not a happy guy. FEMA is talking about putting the pipes back in the river instead of underground where they belong.'

by Cody Neff, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va. / August 11, 2016

(TNS) - Richwood, W. Va., residents still digging out from a late June flood are finding more problems to deal with.

Mayor Bob Henry Baber said one of the newest problems are dirt, mud, sand and large rocks that are clogging the town's storm drains.

“The Jet Truck can’t break up what’s inside those drains,” Bob Henry Baber said. “The drain that’s on Oakford Avenue has a creek coming out. That caused two more houses to receive flooded basements.”

While that’s causing a headache, an even bigger problem is bubbling under the river.

“Our sewage and wastewater lines are destroyed,” Baber said. “We have some temporary pumps up on land that are trying to get things sorted out. The original pipes ran throughout the stream, which is common in many places.”

In most places, sealed pipes in a stream aren’t a problem, Baber said. When a town tends to flood, as Richwood does, it becomes a problem, he added.

“I’m not a happy guy,” Baber said. “FEMA is talking about putting the pipes back in the river instead of underground where they belong.”

The reason for this decision is due to FEMA’s regulations on restoration, Baber said.

“They put things back the way they were,” he said. “If things were less-than-perfect or even substandard, they put them back just like they were because they’re about restoration. That is ridiculous.”

Baber made a plea to anyone who can help with these situations.

“West Virginia has provided the coal that helped build the skyscrapers in America,” Baber said. “We have literally offered life and limb for everyone else. Now we’re giving our children away to other states because they can’t afford to live here.

“We’ve given, given and given. We’ve given about $100. We’re just wanting $1. We’re practically dying down here.”

FEMAs standards and regulations have to be rewritten, Baber said. It only makes sense.

“If some place is already sub-standard or decimated, then something should be done to make it better than they found it,” he said. “To put things back to that lower, subhuman level is un-American. It’s plain-old, un-American.”

If FEMA could help with the storm drains and the sewage systems, then Richwood could start to rebuild and take its rightful place as the “tip of the arrow,” Baber said.

“Richwood is going to be the tip of the arrow of the New Appalachia,” he said. “People are going to look at us and how we’ve recovered. They’ll see us as an example of how to reinvent themselves. We’re the town that won’t die.

“I’m telling you, the other day, a nice, three-bedroom house sold for $11,000 and it wasn’t even in a flooded area. People need to buy up the town because we’re rock bottom now, but we won’t be there for long.”


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