The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 28, 2012

Detention pond designed to alleviate road flooding

In effort to alleviate roadway flooding on Robert C. Byrd Drive, several local agencies have teamed up to construct a stormwater detention pond along Ewart Avenue.

The Southern Conservation District, West Virginia Conservation Agency and Beckley Sanitary Board have been working toward this project to mitigate flooding by slowing down the stormwater runoff at the intersection of Ewart Avenue and Robert C. Byrd Drive.

Crews from Mountaineer Contractors Inc., of Kingwood, have already started working on the $771,260 project.

“A detention pond is currently being constructed to help reduce flooding in the area of Ewart Avenue and Robert C. Byrd Drive, known as the Ewart Avenue watershed,” said Kara Van Pelt, Education and Communications coordinator at Beckley Sanitary Board.  

“Simply put, a watershed is the drainage area where rainwater naturally drains back into our local waterways, and this specific watershed makes up approximately one-half of all the water draining to that area. For this reason, a pond is being built to collect the stormwater drainage.

“Once collected, a control structure within the pond will meter the rate at which the water is released to flow downstream. Although we do not anticipate the pond to be a cure-all, it is a step in the right direction and the pond will help mitigate flooding at the intersection by not overwhelming the storm sewer systems during wet weather.”

Mayor Emmett Pugh said he believes this is a very worthwhile project.

“We all know that Byrd Drive will flood two or three times a year during a heavy rain event, so this project has been years in the making,” Pugh said. “Will this completely solve the flooding on Byrd Drive? No, it will not; however, it should reduce it by 50 or 60 percent.”

Sanitary Board general manager Jeremiah Johnson said the severity of the roadway flooding varies, but it is not unusual for all five lanes of traffic to be flooded and impassable for 30 minutes to an hour during flooding events.

“Robert C. Byrd Drive is a major commercial roadway in the city with daily traffic counts that often exceed 25,000 vehicles per day. When the roadway becomes impassable during these events, traveling through Beckley becomes much more chaotic as drivers seek out alternate routes. Thus the traffic problems disrupt people’s lives and commerce in the city.

“Beckley Fire Department and police resources also are utilized in each roadway closure event erecting barriers and directing traffic.”

An overall solution to the problem was not monetarily feasible at the time, but the project will benefit any future project by reducing the size and cost of storm sewer upgrades in the Division of Highways’ rights-of-way.

The project will additionally improve the quality of local waterways by reducing the stormwater pollution reaching Little Whitestick and Cranberry creeks.

The contract will be paid for through funds obtained by WVCA and SCD through the West Virginia Legislature. The project partners, along with the West Virginia Division of Highways, commissioned engineering studies and evaluated recommended alternatives to address the flooding problems.

Once the structure is complete, its ownership will be transferred to the Sanitary Board, which will assume long-term operation and maintenance as part of the stormwater utility.

The project is expected to be complete in Spring 2013, contingent upon weather.

Johnson added, “Beckley Sanitary Board is excited to be involved in such a high profile project aimed at improving a long-standing stormwater problem in our community. The collaboration that has taken place between the project partners will translate into a critical piece of infrastructure aimed at reducing the disruption flooding causes to residents and businesses.”

For more information, contact Van Pelt at 304-256-1760, ext. 1313, or 304-673-1993.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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