Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 15, 2013

Creek cleaning

Matoaka project vital to growth

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — A long-overdue creek dredging project in Matoaka should help to safeguard the small Mercer County town against the threat of future flooding. It also could help to promote future growth.

The work, which is expected to begin soon, will serve the dual purpose of reducing the risk of future flooding while also helping to boost the town’s tourism potential. The project is being launched with help from an $80,000 grant recently awarded to the town by the Hugh I. Shott Jr. Foundation. The funding will allow officials to clear sediment from the creek running through the town, according to Mayor Todd Colonna.

The work had previously been on hold until the project contractor received an additional permit from  the state Department of Environmental Protection to begin the digging project. The overall permitting process — along with the search for funding — took nearly four years, according to Colonna.

The project will involve the removal of creek sediment from one end of the town’s corporate limits to the other, a distance of approximately one and a quarter miles.

The last time the creek was cleaned out was more than 50 years ago.

“In 1952, they dredged the creek after the creek flooded,” Colonna said. “It didn’t flood again until 2002. We’re hoping to get a lot of years out of this one, too.”

The town has been hit with smaller floods after the major flood of 2002. In those cases, floodwaters covered the town’s streets, making them impassible, and entered the basements of local homes, according to the mayor.

The creek clearance project also should help to boost ongoing tourism efforts in the town, which is attempting to attract ATV traffic, and a possible community connector route between the town and the Hatfield-McCoy Trail system. Colonna correctly notes that the dredging project also will help to improve the town’s appeal to ATV riders and other tourists. He says some of the town’s buildings have been purchased for the purpose of “historic renovation.”

The town currently houses a diner, a deli, the Mountain Man Music Hall and two hardware stores. A new tire business in town also is expected to open soon.

The creek dredging project — and the funding support from the Shott Foundation — is welcomed.

The project will help to protect property and lives in the event of future flooding. After 50 years without dredging, the creek cleaning was certainly long overdue.

We wish the town the best of luck in its future tourism and economic development initiatives, and look forward to the start of the creek cleaning project.