Memo on Flooding

Memo to: The Hon. Andrea J. Pendleton

Mayor, Town of Rainelle

From:  Joan C. Browning, Special Assistant

Re:  Flood Control meeting June 13, 2012


Mayor, here are my impressions and thoughts after the flood control meeting last week.

Flooding seems to have three major issues:

  • Creek bed and Meadow River silt
  • Stream bank deterioration
  • CSX railroad trestle

 The Meadow River drainage brings to Rainelle the run off of western Greenbrier County from Alta Mountain to Rainelle.  In addition, Rainelle is located in a “bowl” that also drains the mountains surrounding it.  Creeks crisscross Rainelle, draining into the Meadow River:   Sewell Creek, Little Sewell Creek, Boggs Creek, Wolfpen Creek.

Further complicating matters is the nature of Meadow River as it traverses through Greenbrier County and Rainelle.  While about five miles of the Meadow River as it reaches the Gauley River is suitable for whitewater rafting, through Rainelle it is a slow moving stream.  The meandering river is unable to flush itself of silt.

Silt is a naturally occurring phenomenon due to the vast drainage area and the slow flow.  The solution historically has been to dredge the riverbed and the creek beds down to rock.  This was last performed by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in ??1959.  At that time, the Town of Rainelle agreed to maintain the river and creek banks to delay the time for dredging again.

Another factor that accelerated the accumulation of silt in creeks and the Meadow River is the timbering practice of “clear cutting.”  While some argue that this is a beneficial method of harvesting timber, there is no longer significant dispute that it also causes mountain soil to be washed into the creeks and river.

In 2012, Rainelle is seeing the propensity of flooding from all three factors:  natural accumulation of silt, creek and river bank deterioration, and increased silt from clear cutting.

A fourth factor causes flooding where the Sewell Creek flows into the Meadow River.  Near this junction, the CSX railroad trestle is built in such a way that it creates a funnel through which the Sewell Creek must try to push all its accumulated rain or snow melt. At this point, Sewell Creek is only a few inches higher than Meadow River, so when the river is full itself, Sewell Creek’s water must disperse before going through the trestle.  The area all around is thus flooded.

What can be done?

The Meadow River problem is larger than the Town of Rainelle, though the Town is where all of western Greenbrier County’s silt accumulates and causes flooding.   The solution must involve the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and others.

Restoration of the natural flow of creeks through town, by restoring natural creek banks, is something that the Town of Rainelle and others, including the U. S. Soil Conservation Service, may be able to accomplish.

Solving the problem of the CSX trestle must necessarily involve the CSX engineers.  The Town received a grant to hire hydrologists to investigate the possibility of an “ox bow” type of diversion ditch so that Sewell Creek could flow into the Meadow River around the trestle.  The hydrologist’s analysis was that this would help so little as to be unworthy of the expense.

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