GALLIA COUNTY — With the significant rainfall and flooding that has occurred lately, the Gallia County Soil and Water Conservation District took time to explain the effects of flooding in the area.
According to Raina Fulks, floodplain administrator with SWCD, flooding has multiple effects on the area from farmers to residents living in flood plains throughout Gallia County.
“The biggest thing flooding does now is interfere with human activities. The problem is we build in all the natural flood plains, for a stream to naturally function it has to flood,” said Fulks. “As far as environmental effects, there are definitely some pollutants when it goes over the ground, there’s always the issue of trash left over and debris and clean up that we have to deal with, but the biggest thing is, it’s bad when your property floods and your house is damaged.”
Fulks explained that Gallia County does participate in the national flood insurance program through FEMA, which in turn regulates what can and cannot be developed and done in a flood plain. Any building, earth moving, or development in a flood plain is supposed to go through her office for a permit process to ensure the floodplain is maintained and damage is mitigated.
“FEMA does regulate what you can and can’t do in a flood area, but a lot of this stuff was done back before the 1980’s and however long ago before we were participating in that program, so some of the development happened long before we were involved in anything like that,” said Fulks.
Fulks gave one example of the C.H. McKenzie Building which houses the SWCD as well as other agencies. The structure was built in the flood plain of the Chickamauga Creek before current regulations went into place.
Agriculturally, there are certainly risks that are present but can be avoided for most farmers with fields in floodplains.
“Floodplain ground is very rich soil most of the time, so unfortunately it is a good place to plant your crops if you’re wiling to take the risk of them being destroyed by the flood,” said Fulks. “There is always a little bit of erosion whenever water is flowing over the land, as a general rule all soil is different depending on location, but as a general rule flood plains are generally pretty rich for crops, but sediment in the stream can be an issue and it doesn’t build up and go down stream.”
For farmers who do choose to plant crops in floodplains, there is some compensation for damaged crops from flooding available through federal programs, although it is not always guaranteed, according to Fulks.
“Sedimentation and that build up is really a problem in the streams around here. It really is one of the number one causes of pollution in the entire country, the more land use you have, the more people you have, and the more problems you can have,” said Fulks. “Clearing the land for development, the less vegetation you have on it, the more soil you’re going to lose, the bigger this problem is, and it all goes down stream. It’s a hard balance to find when you have people wanting to live along streams.”
As of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the Ohio River is rising past 39 feet and is expected to crest at the moderate flood stage of 44 feet Wednesday afternoon.
Reach Morgan McKinniss@aimmediamidwest.com