Town will support maintenance to flood control dams

by Trish Rudder

At the March 3 Bath Town Council meeting, Brian Farkas, executive director of the West Virginia Conservation Agency, asked the Town of Bath to help fund the maintenance of eight flood control dams for another year.

This is the second year the funding contract with municipalities and county commissions is being made.

Two years ago two West Virginia county commissions stated the original funding agreement was unconstitutional and said the maintenance was a burden for the counties.

Farkas said the state attorney general’s office agreed that it was unconstitutional, and a county commission or municipality could stop funding dam maintenance.

County commissions and municipalities can continue to fund dam maintenance through a new Operational Funding Agreement, which has an escape clause and is a 12-month agreement, Farkas had said.

Lin Dunham and Jim Michael of the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District, who work closely with Farkas, also attended the meeting.

Dunham said maintenance on the eight dams needs to be kept up. “It’s very important.” There would be a lot more flooding “if we did not keep the dams maintained,” he said.

Last year, the town gave $2,000 toward the dams, said Dunham.

“Every dollar is matched by the state,” Farkas said.

Since the town is in budget discussions and dam maintenance is part of the town’s budget, the request will be forwarded to the Finance committee, Mayor Scott Merki said.

Merki said he was very concerned about the fate of one of the dams by the construction of the proposed U.S. 522 Berkeley Springs Bypass. He said the town council is not being kept informed about the bypass from the DOH (state Division of Highways).

Farkas said that has been a problem for his agency as well. He said the NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) dam safety engineer is trying to learn of the final design that would affect Dam 3 and 4 to make sure the flood storage is protected.

Farkas said the town and the county officials need to be brought into the bypass discussions.

“You can’t put a highway there that would cause flooding,” Farkas said.

“We need to know what is going on,” Merki said.

“We are left out of the discussions. Additional runoff is the worry. It’s very concerning,” said Merki.

“Especially Dams 3 and 4,” Dunham said.

Farkas said he will keep Dunham and Michael in the loop. “They will let you know,” he said.

Michael said he is proud of the maintenance to the dams.

“We don’t want the town flooding because of a four-lane highway,” said Merki.