PARSONS - Officials discovered a hole in the Pulp Mill Bottom Dike in Parsons during the July 4 weekend, and county, state and federal agencies are now working together to ensure the damage is repaired and residents are safe.
The dike, which was rebuilt in 1986 following the 1985 flood, is a diversion dike, which according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers information means it does not provide flood protection, but rather has a potential to limit flood damages.
The dike is designed to deflect the flow of high velocity flood water back into the stream channel as opposed to letting it run through the heart of the city.
Tucker County Commission President Mike Rosenau descends the front of the Pulp Mill Bottom Dike in Parsons Thursday to gain access to a hole in the structure. (The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart)
Representatives from the City of Parsons, Tucker County Commission and Tygart Valley Conservation District investigate a hole in the Pulp Mill Bottom Dike in Parsons. (Photo courtesy of Mike Rosenau)
Touring the structure Thursday were Tucker County Commissioners Lowell Moore and Mike Rosenau, Parsons City Administrator/Treasurer Jason Myers, Parsons Chief of Police Bill Rowe, Tygart Valley Conservation District Supervisors James Nester and David Bonner, NRCS Engineer John Weller and Tygart Valley Soil Conservation Supervisor Roger Poling.
Nester said he felt the damage to the dike is beyond the scope of that which can be covered by the Tygart Valley Conservation District, but said he would bring up the issue during the group's board meeting, slated for Monday.
Myers said he has been communicating with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representative Patrick J. Golden, from the Pittsburgh District. In a phone interview with The Inter-Mountain Thursday, Golden said he is searching to see what assistance, if any, the Army Corps of Engineers can supply.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replaced the Pulp Mill Bottom Dike after it was seriously damaged by the historic flood of 1985. The Corps used rock to fashion the structure, and came back and placed concrete-filled fabric mattress on the dike shortly thereafter.
Two Army Corps of Engineers representatives met with Parsons officials in 2000 to discuss the dike. The visit revealed that the fabri-form structure was in very good condition with only minor cracking.
In 2010, Army Corps of Engineers representatives met again with Parsons officials, who reported the condition of the dike appeared good.
Earlier this month, a significant hole was reported in the dike. City and county officials are working to find assistance in making the needed repairs.
"The dike is a quarter mile upstream from Parsons and was originally on private land," Golden said. "It was never an Army Corps of Engineers structure."
Golden said the dike was seriously damaged in the flood of 1985. He said after the president declared the situation a disaster, federal agencies came into the area to help residents in the aftermath.
"We had permission to do emergency clean up - the flood was so massive and the Soil Conservation Districts would not handle all of the repairs," Golden said. "So the Army Corps of Engineers came into Parsons to help repair the blown-out dike. They took the rocks and piled them up to bring the dike up to the same level prior to the flood."
Golden said the water still seeped through the rocks, however, and concerned Parsons city officials asked the Corps to design and construct the existing dike.
"They put in a fabric mattress and pumped concrete through it," Golden said. "It was completed in 1986. The Army Corps of Engineers designed the dike, put the construction out to bid and served as overseers for the construction to its completion. The completion signified the end of the federal involvement."
Golden said the structure was never admitted into the Routine Inspection Program because it does not meet the requirements.
"The structure was never admitted into the program because it is a diversion dike, designed to keep the Shavers Fork River in its banks," Golden said.
He said he is trying to determine if the levy would fit into a program that provides resources for flood protection in West Virginia.
"I am looking into that program to see if there is anything we can do to help out in Parsons," Golden said. "I looked at the photos Jason (Myers) sent me. I advised him that it looks as if the hole could be filled with rocks and concrete over that. That would go a long way to keeping the dike together."