UPDATE | Milton floodwall funding passes state Legislature

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MILTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 6/26/19 @ 10:30 a.m.
House Bill 149 passed in the West Virginia State Legislature this week. The bill appropriates $8 million in state funds that will go toward creating a floodwall in Milton.

Legislators say that getting a flood wall to protect the city has been a 20-year long effort after a major flood in 1997.

The bill passed in the House Wednesday, June 19 unanimously. It then passed unanimously in the Senate on Monday.

The federal government will provide 65 percent of the funding, and state and local sources will contribute 35 percent.

The floodwall will put most of the city in a 250-year floodplain.

Legislators say that getting a floodwall to protect the city has been a 20-yearlong effort after a major flood in 1997.

ORIGINAL STORY 6/18/19 @ 8:30 p.m.
Loretta Wilhelm knows the devastation that flooding can cause after she lived through a major flood in the 70s in McDowell.

"It happens so fast you don’t even know what's happening. You just look up and the water keeps coming up,” she said.

Now a resident and owner of an antique shop in Milton, she sits right in the flood plain and has to pay for flood insurance.

"There was damage to the building when I first came here of the water and stuff on the floors,” Wilhelm said.

When she first moved to the building where her antique shop stands, it had endured one of the worst floods in Milton’s history in 1997, but protection for her and other businesses could be coming because of House Bill 149.

The damage from the storm in 1997 cost about $42 million.

The bill would appropriate $8 million in state funding to go toward creating a flood wall in the city.

The Army Corps of Engineers will provide $93 million for the project if the $8 million from House Bill 149 is passed by July 2019. Otherwise the funds could be reallocated to another state.

The federal government will provide 65 percent of the funding and state and local sources will match that amount with 35 percent.

According to WSAZ news partner, WV MetroNews, the projected cost of the flood wall is $143 million.

Legislators say that getting a flood wall to protect the city has been a 20-year-long effort after the major flood.

"It concerns you because you know you could just wake up and here comes a big flood and just wipe us all out,” she said.

City officials and some residents are worried because the city is in a 27-year flood plain and will be due for another one soon.

The flood wall would put most of the city in a 250-year floodplain.

But not everyone is pleased with the plan for the flood wall. It would only protect part of the city, meaning some neighborhoods would not get the additional protection.

Karen Cremeans lives in south Milton and her house borders the Mud River.

She understands the flood wall could benefit businesses off U.S. 60 and worries how she and her neighbors could be impacted.

"It won’t protect us at all. It's going to push all the water that goes into the town of Milton over this way it’s going to push all of it over on us,” Cremeans said.

But people like Wilhelm are hopeful this would give her peace of mind.

"It’s going to bring more people in, and I think the more people comes in the better our business is going to be because they're going to come in and feel safe. They'll want to buy,” Wilhelm said.

The third reading for House Bill 149 is on Wednesday. If it passes in the House, it will then go on to the Senate for consideration.

If the flood wall becomes a reality, construction is estimated to take five years.