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Flooding in Milton on Sunday, March 2, 1997.

MILTON - The West Virginia Legislature appropriated $8 million in surplus state revenue to the Milton floodwall project during this week's special session meetings.

The unanimously approved funding will go toward the 35% match the state and city must meet for the more than $100 million project along the Mud River. That project will be overseen by the Huntington District of the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

Del. Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, who not only represents Milton but also lives there, said the project is near and dear to his heart. Along with support from the Cabell County delegation in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, the city of Milton, the Cabell County Commission and the Governor's Office, Linville said they were able to secure the funds to bring the long-discussed project closer to reality.

"It's a big thing for me," Linville said. "This is something Milton has needed and has been in the works for 30 years. For us to be able to be a part of this is incredible. This can save people's lives, homes and businesses."

The federal Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 provides long-term funding for a number of Corps of Engineers projects nationwide, including several in West Virginia and Kentucky in areas under the Huntington District's jurisdiction. The Huntington District has $900 million for projects that have been needed for years, including the Milton floodwall project.

The project will consist of 8,000 feet of floodwall, a gate closure and two pump stations. The Corps figures it will need 135 tracts of real estate to build the floodwall, Michael Keathley, chief of the district's Programs and Project Management Branch, told The Herald-Dispatch earlier this year. Only 35 of those are necessary for construction. The rest are easements to allow periodic ponding of water after storms, he said.

Cost estimates for the project have reached up to $143 million. Linville said the Corps will provide a little over $90 million. The rest must be matched by state and local funds, but in-kind contributions will count toward the match.

"If we have extra fill dirt or do any work on the roads, provide any service as a state or municipality to the project, the value comes off our matching contribution amount," Linville said. "We think we can be in the range of $17 (million) to $20 million off the match."

The city of Milton also will be responsible for operation and maintenance of the wall. In May, the Milton City Council approved the use of 15% of the municipal sales and use tax, about $68,000 a year, toward floodwall maintenance.

The project will have multiple benefits to the community, Linville said. First, the construction will bring jobs and estimates show a return on the state's investment could be 1.27%, meaning a $100 million project would put $27 million back in the state's coffers.

The wall itself will turn what is currently a 20-year flood plain into a 200- or 250-year flood plain, which drastically reduces the chances of major flooding and will reduce the cost and possibly even the requirement for flood insurance for home and business owners.

The last major flood happened in 1997, causing $42 million in damage in today's costs.

Linville said the Corps has ensured him and other legislators the floodwall would not create problems for those not in the protected area. In fact, federal law prevents the Corps from doing any project that would create harm to other areas.

"There is a significant effort to ensure this project solves problems, not creates them," he said.

The Corps will host public meetings as the project moves along. The estimated timeline for completion is about five years.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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