Governor Jim Justice, Milton Mayor Thomas Canterbury, and officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have signed an agreement to build an 8,300-foot long levee between Milton, West Virginia, and the Mud River that will reduce flooding in the area.
"This is something that your community needs, and you need it right now,” Justice said during the signing ceremony.
“It will become a place where people can come and live or bring their business and thrive and feel secure. Then Milton will become a destination."
As part of the agreement, Justice pledged $43 million to the project. The funding will be allocated by the West Virginia Legislature over the course of several years.
The Governor worked alongside legislative leadership to ensure the State would be able to afford its contribution to the effort, which will trigger a federal match, estimated to reach nearly $90 million in additional funding to make the levee a reality.
Milton has a long history of catastrophic flooding, with six major flood events occurring from 1913 to 2015.
The all-time record flood of 1997 caused $23 million of damage, and a future flood of the same magnitude is estimated to be capable of causing more than $40 million of damage at current price levels, according to the governor's office.
Due to the way the city and river are situated, Milton has about a 3.7 percent chance, each year, of experiencing a major flooding event, which means a major flood is likely to occur once every 27 years on average.
“I know how devastating these kinds of events can be to communities,” Justice said.
“It would cost an incredible amount of money to have this keep happening over and over again. We can’t afford it and we certainly can’t afford to put our people at risk.”
The levee will be approximately 1.5 miles in length. Its average height will be 19 feet, with some sections reaching as high as 26 feet.
The alignment of the levee will require the relocation of approximately 4,100 feet of the existing Mud River as well as one gate closure, two pump stations, and mitigation features for impacts caused by the construction of the project.
Once the levee is complete, it will make these major flooding events about 10 times less likely to occur. The annual chance of a major flood will drop to 0.4 percent or once every 250 years.
The levee will safeguard more than 600 city structures, including homes and businesses as well as public structures, personal property, and critical infrastructure. Additionally, the project will reduce risks to public health and safety caused by flooding.