The Huntington Stormwater Utility performs a routine floodwall gate closure in Guyandotte in this September file photo.

HUNTINGTON — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded Huntington with the “Most Improved Levee System” for the Guyandotte portion of its floodwall and levee system.

Brian Bracey, executive director of the Huntington Water Quality Board, announced the award during a Huntington City Council meeting Monday. The award, which he said came as a “great surprise,” was given by the Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District Office to the Huntington Stormwater Utility.

Over the past few years, crews with the Stormwater Utility, which is part of the Water Quality Board, have made several improvements to the Guyandotte portion of the floodwall and levee system. Bracey specifically congratulated Sherri Wilkins, director of the Stormwater Utility, and Stan Wonnell, floodwall coordinator.

“Without their dedication and commitment, we would never have received this award,” Bracey said.

In the past few years, the Stormwater Utility has performed required gate closure exercises on all 15 floodwall gates on a three-year cycle, something that had not been done before. The most recent cycle was completed in 2018.

The utility also inspected conduits beneath the floodwall and levee, including outfall pipes that carry water to the Ohio and Guyandotte rivers. These conduits must be inspected every five years.

Wonnell spearheaded mowing and trimming trees and vegetation from along the floodwall, which could send deep roots to disrupt the integrity of the soils along the levee.

The utility conducted periodic inspections of all pump stations, which includes running of all pumps, testing the insulation qualities of the conductors, testing the cables and cranes inside the stations, and checking all electrical and mechanical equipment. A new roof was also installed on the Oak Street pump station because the previous roof was leaking for more than a decade, jeopardizing the electrical equipment inside.

“People who live, work and play in Huntington benefit from the floodwall system being operated and maintained properly,” Wilkins said in a statement. “I am extremely proud of the commitment, hard work and sacrifice our Stormwater Utility floodwall crew makes every day. It is this commitment that earned Huntington this award.”

Huntington’s floodwall and levee system covers 11.5 miles with 17 pump stations and 45 gate openings. The system is divided into two separate components, the Guyandotte system and the Ohio/Downtown system. The Guyandotte system protects the Guyandotte and Altizer neighborhoods and the Ohio/Downtown system protects the downtown and Westmoreland areas.

The Guyandotte system is made up of 3 miles of concrete floodwall, 1 mile of earthen levee, four pump stations and 15 gate closures.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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