Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wellsville HIstorical Society Told About Flood Control System

At last week's Wellsville Historical Society meeting Fire Chief Bill Smith spoke about the Village Flood Control System. The system includes gates, pumps, levies and, of course, the floodwall. In the past several months it has been determined that the nearly 80 year old system is unacceptable. One of the roles as Chief of the Wellsville Fire Department is the Flood Control System Administrator.

Wellsville's flood control system was designed and built with Federal funds after the 1936 flood. That particular flood caused millions of dollars in damage and losses all along the Ohio River. For Wellsville records it was the worse flood in history. In today's dollars a flood similar to 1936 would cause billions of dollars in damage.

Smith explained that the U.S. Corp of Engineers is responsible for overseeing the flood control system. However, the maintenance and repair of the system is the responsibility of the Village. Updating and repairing the system is something that has been long procrastinated on and ignored by Village officials. There always seemed to be more pressing demands in the budget for the needed funds to do anything with the flood control system. Now today it is estimated that necessary repairs will cost in excess of $10 million dollars. That is repairs that must be done before that unacceptable rating can be reversed.

One of the biggest problems is the pumps that handle hillside run-off water inside the floodwall and dikes. There are six pumps in the Wellsville system. For the most part all are original equipment installed 75 years ago. Earlier this year only two of the six pumps worked – one uptown and one in the lower end of the Village. With a contractor hitting the electrical line to the one working pump uptown Wellsville is down to one working pump. Being so old there are not replacement parts readily available to repair the pumps. That means they will probably need to be replaced. Pumps that size are estimated to cost nearly $250,000 each.

Smith displayed new maps showing designated flood plain areas should we have a catastrophic flood in the future. That isn't expected at present and a flood with damages like 1936 is highly unlikely according to the Chief. Most flooding in the Village is caused with snow melt off and heavy rain. In the hills of Pennsylvania and West Virginia there are now huge reservoirs that capture a lot of that water. When flood conditions happen those reservoirs hold releasing any water into the streams that feed the Ohio River.

Until money can be found to repair Wellsville's system Smith's main concern is getting word out on flood insurance. Presently property owners in town that have flood insurance are paying at the most something like $100 a year. It is expected that in the near future those rates will increase enormously. Smith said he heard estimates of as much as $200 a month or more. Homeowners with mortgages may be forced to get flood insurance by their lending institutions. Damage from floods are not covered with just house insurance. It is a separate policy that is backed by Federal agencies. Flood insurance can be purchased through insurance agencies that write you home & car insurance policies but they are just a go between for the flood insurance.

Smith is shown above. He advised that the maps are available for review at theWellville Fire Station during normal business hours.

Wellsville's flood stage is 677 feet above sea level. That's is 16 feet above what is considered normal water levels. That is when the flood gates go up. It takes 19 feet of water to reach the road surface on the Wells Avenue bridge. That's 680 feet above sea level. In 1936 flood waters crested at 689.5 feet in Wellsville. The top of the floodwall at 1st Street is 694 feet above sea level. The elevation at 5th & Main Streets is 709 feet. No part of Main Street was flooded in 1936. It was like an island.

ole nib

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