The city of Portsmouth and Wastewater Director Rick Duncan can exhale. The city’s levee system has been certified. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has notified the city of Portsmouth and the village of New Boston that the accreditation process is complete. Both entities will receive an accreditation letter within 30 days.
“I am very thankful that it’s done and we were able to work with New Boston and the engineering consultants to get it approved,” Duncan said.
Duncan said all work has been done and all paperwork has been approved, and now it is just a formality based on a letter to make it official.
“It is a big relief, and we’ve learned a lot through the process,” Duncan said. “We’ve learned every foot of the levee what we need to do to maintain it and to keep up with all the FEMA guidelines and the (U.S.) Corps of Engineers guidelines. There’s a lot to it.”
The city recently was awarded Most Improved Levee in the Huntington, West Virginia District, from the Corps of Engineers.
“Our goal is to have very good inspections every year to just be ready if we ever have to go through another certification,” Duncan said.
New Boston Village Administrator Steve Hamilton reacted to the notification as well.
“It’s just a big relief,” Hamilton said. “We started the PAL (Provisionally Accredited Levee) agreement back in 2010 and here it is almost 2017 and it’s finally over with.”
Hamilton said, when he initially began work on the filing, the village already had drillings they had testing on, and he knew he could use that testing for the certification.
In both cases, FEMA came back and told them there was more information that was needed to get through the process, and both Portsmouth and New Boston provided the additional information. Hamilton said he filed approximately 6-8 months ago.
“All incomplete items of the accreditation package for the city of Portsmouth levee segment have been adequately addressed and are considered complete as per the requirements in 44 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 65.10,” the email from FEMA reads. “The New Boston levee segment is also considered complete as per the requirements in 44 CFR 65.10.”
Hamilton said the entire process required everyone working together.
“It was a team effort here in the village with (Village) Council, the mayor before (Jim Warren), the mayor now (Junior Williams), everybody, it was a loan that the village took out for $300,000 to do the certification that the village is paying back and not to put any tax on any of the residents,” Hamilton said. “It’s something the village didn’t go to the residents for. We got the loan on our own.”
Hamilton said the certification is all about safety.
“We want to make sure, here in the village, that our flood walls are going to hold up; our flood pump stations are in good shape,” Hamilton said. “We’re going to be able to pump at maximum capacity, the back-water flooding and the river flooding. So it’s a safety issue. Even if we got certified and Portsmouth was still working on it, we’re all together. So, if we would start flooding here in New Boston, it would go up toward Walnut Street in that area too and that’s a part of Portsmouth. We are all together working with Mr. (Mark) Puckett (flood defense supervisor) and Mr. Duncan.”
The email said in the future, the current flood insurance rate maps will be revised to incorporate the data provided and show the levee as accredited.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.