WYOMING COUNTY, WV - The riverfront properties nestled along Laurel Creek in the Laurel Estates and Lillyton area of Matheny, West Virginia were home to 16 families that had suffered repeated flood damage. Wyoming County Emergency Services Director Dean Meadows describes this area as “the place in Wyoming County that has the most severe localized flooding and caused continual damage to property and homes.”
On July 8, 2001, severe storms hit this area again, and flooding caused a great amount of damage. This prompted Meadows to seek a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). HMGP assists states and local communities in implementing long-term mitigation measures following a major disaster declaration. Administered and funded by FEMA and the State of West Virginia, with the voluntary participation of the homeowners, an acquisition project was approved and undertaken. The properties were bought and the 13 stick-built and three pre-manufactured structures were demolished, returning the area to its natural state.
Through the program, Wyoming County became the new owner of the land with restrictions on future use limited to open green space. The county leases each property site to nearby property owners for $25 a year. Where houses once stood, horses now graze, gardens flourish, and open green space is abundant.
In May 2009, four inches of rain fell in three hours and flooding again occurred in the area. “We not only eliminated repetitive flooding for those we bought-out, but we greatly reduced the damage done to the surrounding homes located in the area,” said Meadows.
“This is a win-win solution for all of us,” said Meadows. “The families no longer experience the heartache of continual flooding, the property owners take care of the land and the community has a nice green space which has become a source of pride.”