CHARLESTON, W.Va. – House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, and a bipartisan group of delegates representing districts affected by the June 2016 and other recent flooding today introduced legislation to establish a State Flood Protection Planning Council and Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding.
This council and committee would work to create a comprehensive and coordinated statewide flood protection planning program to save lives and reduce or mitigate flood damage.
“The 2016 floods devastated large regions of this state, caused several deaths and affected the lives of thousands of our citizens,” Speaker Armstead said. “This was the worst flood I’ve seen in my lifetime, but it certainly wasn’t the first. We need to make sure we, as a government, are doing everything we can to protect lives, prevent flooding and mitigate damage from future floods.”
House Bill 2935, introduced Friday, would create the planning council and joint committee to develop “a comprehensive and coordinated statewide flood protection planning program to save lives and reduce or mitigate flood damage while supporting economic growth and protecting the environment.”
The bill is sponsored by Speaker Armstead and Delegates Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay; Boogie Ambler, R-Greenbrier; Jordan Hill, R-Nicholas; Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; and Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier.
The bill recognizes the impact flooding has had over the state in recent decades:
The State Flood Protection Planning Council created by the bill would consist of the director of the Division of Natural Resources, the executive director of the state Conservation Agency, and the secretaries of the Departments of Environmental Protection, Military Affairs and Public Safety, and Transportation, or their designees.
Among its responsibilities, the council would:
The council would also prepare an annual report for the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding – a new 10-member interim committee made up of a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate. The legislative committee will study all activities relating to flood protection and make recommendations on possible solutions to “reduce the reality and threat of future loss of life and property damages associated with flooding.”
In addition to the annual report, the chairman of the State Flood Protection Planning Council will also report to the legislative interim committee on at least a quarterly basis on the council’s activities to assure progress toward reducing and mitigating flood damage and to develop legislative recommendations.
“While we may not be able to prevent future floods, my goal is that this council and legislative committee will help us establish better warning systems for our citizens and ways to mitigate the severity of future disasters,” Speaker Armstead said.
The flood protection planning council was one of many recommendations contained in a 2004 multi-agency taskforce report regarding statewide flood protection planning.
House Bill 2935 has been referred to the Committee on Government Organization for consideration.
In addition to this bill, Speaker Armstead and Delegates Hanshaw and Ambler have also introduced House Bill 2869, which would provide paid leave to certain state employees who provide help as an emergency aid provider during a declared state of emergency.
The Legislature passed a similar bill – House Bill 2796 – during the 2016 session, but it was vetoed by former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.