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Money to fix Inwood flooding problems redistributed to Jefferson County

July 04, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Money originally set aside to help fix a flooding problem in Inwood, W.Va., has been redistributed to Jefferson County for a comprehensive water study and "agricultural enhancement" projects at 83 farms in the Eastern Panhandle.

The West Virginia State Conservation Committee authorized the transfer of $250,000 to Jefferson County's water study and $105,816 for the Agricultural Enhancement Program, according to the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District office. Another $4,000 contributed by the Berkeley County Commission was returned in May.

Before being reallocated, the money was being used to match a federal grant of $654,800. The decision to spend it elsewhere jeopardized the grant, officials said in May.

James Moore, one of two supervisors from Berkeley County on the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District board, said last month Jefferson County had been waiting for an extended period of time to have a water study completed. Studies have been done in Berkeley and Morgan counties, he said.

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With the additional money, the Agricultural Enhancement Program -- a pilot project of the West Virginia Conservation Agency and the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District -- was able to fully fund water and soil quality improvement projects at 83 farms in the tri-county area, officials said. Another $125,000 previously was allocated for the startup cost-sharing program.

The enhancement projects include installing fencing to keep cattle out of streams, cover crops to reduce erosion, pasture reseeding, lime for cropland, poultry litter and frost seeding.

The projects are meant to improve farm productivity and soil and water quality, according to the conservation district's winter 2009 newsletter.

The decision by the state conservation committee to reallocate the money, however, left the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District without required matching funds for the Environmental Protection Agency grant that U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., helped obtain for the Inwood project in 2003.

The EPA grant first was awarded to the conservation district, which was managing the Inwood storm-water management project. The EPA earlier this year approved the sewer district's request to have the grant transferred from the conservation district, which had agreed to turn over the project to them.

The sewer district had contracted with a national engineering and design consulting firm in an attempt to revisit a projection by another firm that the storm-water flooding problems would cost $28 million to more than $30 million to fix.

The sewer district's firm had been searching for ways to reduce the project's projected cost through more localized storm-water runoff strategies, rather than installing massive infrastructure to transport water across an area with no natural drainage outlet, sewer district officials had said.

Moore told the commission in May that $513,343 had been spent on engineering plans since the project initially was funded about 12 years ago.

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