PHILADELPHIA – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in coordination with West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM), the West Virginia School Building Authority, the Kanawha County Board of Education, the Nicholas County Board of Education, are working in partnership to complete environmental assessments for the replacement of four flood damaged schools in Kanawha County and Nicholas County, West Virginia. This statement serves to update the public on the progress that has been made since FEMA’s March 14, 2019 statement.
FEMA continues to track 30 separate and substantive actions and sub-actions across both counties’ times four different school locations for a total of 120 major efforts that change daily and incorporate responsibilities from numerous agencies at the local, state and federal level. Areas of consideration include, but are not limited to, water quality, air quality, hazardous materials, zoning, noise, wetlands, endangered species, and historic resources.
At any given moment, responsibilities and task ownership change between parties as progress is updated. Because of this dynamic process, any update is a snapshot in time as of that date. FEMA will continue to be as transparent as possible and will publish periodic updates as meaningful changes occur.
Presently, in Kanawha County, two environmental assessments are required for the replacement of Clendenin Elementary School and Herbert Hoover High School. FEMA received comments from the West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) earlier in the week for both sites. FEMA is now reviewing the information provided by these agencies against project documentation, such as engineering plans, to continue analysis of impacts on both historic resources and endangered species. FEMA is in coordination with USFWS to develop minimization measures appropriate to the proposed action and anticipated impacts to endangered species. A full consultation package incorporating these measures is currently being developed by FEMA and is expected to be submitted to USFWS by April 4, 2019. In addition, SHPO has requested a cemetery inventory be complete, which was submitted on April 2. Once these steps have been completed, FEMA will work with all partners to ensure that any conditions based on the results of these surveys can be met.
In Nicholas County, two environmental assessments are required for the replacement of Summersville Middle School and Richwood Middle School and High School. FEMA received comments from USFWS earlier this week, which are being incorporated into both assessments. FEMA is in consultation with the SHPO for impacts to historic resources. Furthermore, Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires Federal agencies to consider the effects of Federally funded projects on historic properties prior to the expenditure of any Federal funds. The Section 106 process includes consultation with the SHPO. The Nicholas County Board of Education, through their contractor, has been consulting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to determine what, if any, impacts there are to wetlands or jurisdictional waters and what type of permits will be required to complete the construction. Once this information is received, it will be incorporated into the draft environmental assessment. In addition to these two remaining requirements, FEMA received the traffic study for the Richwood school on April 1, 2019, from the subcontractor. FEMA is awaiting the results of the traffic study for the Summersville school from Nicholas County Board of Education.
As the above required information is received, FEMA is incorporating the information into the draft environmental assessments and analyzing the cumulative impacts at each location. FEMA’s partners are aware of the current statuses for each of the schools and are continuing to support the process by reviewing and processing documents as quickly as practicable and well within the timeframes allotted in the various regulations. While the environmental assessment process is ongoing, FEMA is holding regular meetings and providing weekly updates on the status and next steps for all four environmental assessments.
Draft documents will be available to the public to provide an opportunity for involvement and input in the decision process in accordance with the law. The environmental assessment process concludes with one of two decision documents, either a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) or a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters. FEMA Region III’s jurisdiction includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Learn more about FEMA Region III at www.FEMA.gov/region-iii. Stay informed of FEMA’s activities online: videos and podcasts are available at fema.gov/medialibrary and youtube.com/fema. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/femaregion3.