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Staunton City Council gives green light on flood mitigation strategy

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 7:43 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) - One year after flooding devastated Staunton causing an estimated $3.1 million in damage, the city has a plan.

Earlier this year, the city contracted a study. It proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in projects to help address Staunton’s flooding problem. It was a starting point according to Floodplain Administrator John Glover, but the cost is too much.

Glover says there is no way to completely flood-proof Staunton, but there is a path to resilience and one that’s more affordable.

Thursday night, Staunton City Council gave the go-ahead on that plan.

Staunton was built in a floodplain. “It’s a huge problem,” said Glover. “And, we can’t solve it 100%. We can lessen it and we can reduce it.”

That floodplain is based on a 100-year flood. The average 4.8 inches of rain that fell on August 8, 2020, was a 500-year plus, concentrated in a small area.

“It’s challenging to manage these small super intense storms that can just pop up randomly,” stated Glover. “We want to do something that makes a direct and immediate benefit as much as we can.”

They’re proposing a holistic approach to mitigating the effects of potential flooding. “Not just engineering solutions, you know big-ticket items,” said Glover.

It includes exploring options for flood insurance and educating the public about all the little things they can do like cleaning out gutters and evaluating basement utilities.

“If your water heater’s in the basement and it sits right on the floor, it could be elevated up a couple of feet,” stated Glover.

Encouraging property owners to get newer, lighter flood shields utilizing possible grant money, and implementing weather sensors that gauge the stream flow, and rainfall for better data, and a warning system.

“Tell property owners to put their flood shields in place,” said Glover. “Maybe do a reverse 911 text message to ask people to remove their cars from the Wharf parking area.”

The big-ticket item that will take longer is tunnel work - studying, mapping, cleaning, and repairing them.

“Some of it is structural to make sure the tunnel is in good condition,” stated Glover. “Over the years, different storms, each one causes a little bit of damage.”

Glover says they want to move as quickly as they reasonably can. “We don’t want to make mistakes. We want to get it right.”

The estimated cost is $8 million according to Glover. He says they’ll seek state and federal funding to lessen the burden on taxpayers.

Some strategies are expected to be in place in a matter of months.

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