Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 21, 2013

Rahall presses relief from flooding for city of Princeton

PRINCETON — The ban on federal earmarks in Washington is impacting the ability of lawmakers to help correct chronic flooding along Stafford Drive in Princeton, according to U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.

“In West Virginia, we are all too familiar with the destructive power of excessive rain, and I assure you that I want to be helpful as the city of Princeton works to alleviate this problem,” Rahall said in a letter to the Daily Telegraph. “However, with the moratorium on earmarks by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, a move that I oppose because it prevents members of Congress from interceding in budgetary matters in behalf of their constituents and directing federal funding to specific projects in their home states, the responsibility for many spending decisions now falls to executive branch officials at the state and federal levels.”

Despite the federal earmark ban, Rahall said he is asking a number of state and federal officials to help the city, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Natural Resources Conservation Services, the West Virginia Conservation Agency and the West Virginia Office of Emergency Services.

“I have also contacted Princeton officials and recommended their contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides funding to eligible states, tribes and territories through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for pre-and-post disaster mitigation projects that reduce the risk of loss of life and property due to natural hazards,” Rahall said. “In our state, the West Virginia Office of Emergency Services receives those funds and then, in turn, grants them to local governments and communities.”

Amy Shuler Goodwin, a spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said the state is still looking for solutions to help the city of Princeton.

“Gov. Tomblin knows how important it is to find a resolution to this issue, and he has asked the secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection and the commissioner of the Division of Highways to determine whether this project is eligible for other state or federal programs that could possibly fund the needed repairs,” Goodwin said.

The Hugh I. Shott Jr. Foundation awarded the city $250,000 in matching funds last month to assist with the Stafford Drive flood-control project. That’s half of the estimated $500,000 needed to complete the emergency flood control project. City officials are now actively seeking help from state and federal officials, including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, with the remaining matching funds. Five prior grant applications filed by the city for emergency funding assistance have been denied.

Rahall said he has asked Princeton officials to let him know if they plan to submit additional funding applications so that he “may convey my strong interest on behalf of the city.”

High water on the street has been an issue for motorists, residents of Princeton and Lazenby avenues as well as for the Mercer County Senior Center on Trent Street for years. Officials with the senior center often have had to resort to putting sandbags at their doors during storms to prevent water from seeping into their lobby.

Tragedy was narrowly averted last month when an SUV carrying a woman and a child was submerged under water in Princeton near the Grant’s Supermarket at the Athens Crossroads. Heavy rain had swollen the creek running alongside the supermarket parking lot at the Athens Crossroads when the SUV suddenly went into the water. A child and woman were rescued from the vehicle.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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