July 29, 2016

Manchin says flood victims have not been forgotten | Beckley Register-Herald

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin Thursday visited portions of Greenbrier County devastated by heavy June 23 floods.

The site tours were part of a two-day trip were he met with local and federal officials to assess and discuss ways to help flood victims return to their normal lives and develop projects that could help prevent future floods in the face of "biblical" rains, Manchin said.

As approximately 30 children finished their lunches, Manchin arrived at the White Sulphur Springs Elementary School site of West Virginia University Extension Service and AmeriCorps Energy Express program.

"We are getting to operate an extra week than was originally planned because of the floods," said Terri Collier, leader of the West Virginia Energy Express program.

Collier said there were about 30 participants at the White Sulphur Springs Elementary site, however numbers had been hurt a little due families being displaced by the floods.

Site director Brandy Taylor said the program was in good shape this year and that she was "glad we're back in the school and operational."

Taylor said the floods interrupted the Energy Express program for a week; some children have not returned, but new ones have shown up.

There are five Energy Express sites in Greenbrier County at Rainelle, Rupert, Frankford, Alderson and White Sulphur Springs elementary schools.

Collier said the support from the local Extension office and Greenbrier County Schools has been "great" in keeping the summer reading program going.

While visiting the site, Manchin talked with local officials and flood victims about their journeys to restore some sense of normalcy to their lives.

Manchin explained that the tour was, in part, to make sure flood victims know they are not being forgotten and that work will continue to help them get back on their feet. The senator also noted that having officials from the Army Corps of Engineers along could help him and the agency to highlight areas where resources would need restored and to begin eyeing projects that will mitigate future flood risks.

Manchin also announced that when Congress reconvenes at the beginning of September, he will seek a new designation for hard-hit flood areas from a 75/25 designation, in which the federal government pays 75 percent of rebuilding costs and the state 25 percent, to a 90/10 split.

"This will help everyone tremendously," Manchin said. "We are looking at every situation. I don't want people to lose hope."

Manchin added that the economic impact of the floods should justify the new designation for flood-damaged areas.

"This is the purpose of the federal government," Manchin said.

Manchin said that there need to be priorities, including making sure people have roofs over their heads, students have safe schools to go back to and businesses are given the tools to get back up and running.

"We're still here," Manchin said. "We haven't forgot. We're never going to leave until the jobs done. Help brings hope."

Earlier in the morning Manchin said he toured areas in Rainelle with members of the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss if there were any actions that could be taken to prevent future flooding like that of June 23. Manchin visited Rainelle Medical Center and the FEMA Disaster Center in Rainelle.

Sean Carter, chief geotechnical and water resources engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers Huntington District, said that he and Manchin had been looking at what level of repairs are still needed to restore infrastructure from sewer and water lines to roads.

"Right now we're looking at the short-term to get those things back online," Carter said. "Then we will begin to look deeply into long-term projects to mitigate future floods."