Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 12, 2013

Officials hope Matoaka creek dredging will prevent flooding, attract tourism

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

MATOAKA — If plans go according to schedule, equipment will arrive this week in the town of Matoaka and start reducing the risks of flooding and boost the town’s tourism potential.

The town recently received an $80,000 grant from the Hugh I. Shott Jr. Foundation to clear sediment from the creek running through the town, said Mayor Todd Colonna. Work had to wait until the contractor received an additional permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection; it is expected by the end of this week. The overall permitting process — along with the search for funding — has lasted for four years, he stated.

Equipment is expected to arrive by Wednesday, and digging could begin by the end of this week or early next week, he said.

When the project gets underway, workers will remove creek sediment from one end of the town’s corporate limits to the other, a distance of approximately one and a quarter miles, Colonna said. The creek was cleaned out more than 50 years ago.

“In 1952, they dredged the creek after the creek flooded,” he recalled. “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, Colonna recalled.

However, the creek clearance will have a benefit that goes beyond protecting local homes and businesses — improving the town’s appeal to ATV riders and other tourists. The town has been working to get a link with the new Pocahontas Trail, the most recently built branch of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. Colonna said some of the town’s buildings have been purchased for the purpose of “historic renovation.”

Matoaka now has a diner, a deli, the Mountain Man Music Hall that has joined the town’s two hardware stores, Colonna said. A tire business in town is set to reopen as well.

“As we’re heading into spring, you’re going to see quite a change,” he said, adding that he had recently met with Hatfield-McCoy officials, as well as officials with two mining companies and the Shott Foundation, to work on getting a link to the ATV trail.

“We’re trying to get a trail from McComas to us,” he said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com