By Rachel Dove
TOLER, Ky. - Having their homes and businesses flooded has nearly become a way of life for a number of Pike County, Ky., residents. Some residents and business owners believe plans by the Pike County Board of Education will only make matters worse.
The Pike County Board of Education published a legal advertisement Friday in a local newspaper stating that they have filed an application with the West Virginia Energy and Environmental Cabinet to place a “fill” along Pond Creek of the Tug Fork River.
The property in question is located on Pond Creek at Southside Elementary School, 170 State Highway 319, at Belfry, and is approximately 0.10 miles from the intersection of U.S. Highway 119 and Kentucky Route 319.
The ad goes on to say that anyone wishing to comment, or who has objections to this application should direct their concerns to the Kentucky Division of Water, Surface Water Permit Branch - Flood Plain Management Section 22, Fair Oaks Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601. They may also call 502-564-3410.
In addition to writing letters and making phone calls, residents of Toler, Hardy and Belfry, Ky., plan to meet with their state representative, W. Keith Hall, during a community meeting Friday night to share with him their fears and concerns.
One of the letters brought Tuesday to the Daily News that is being shared by many of those who object to the school board’s request reads as follows:
“This letter is concerning a public notice published in a Pikeville, Ky., newspaper on May 2, 2014, where the Pike County BOE has filed for a permit to fill along Pond Creek at the Southside Elementary School that is located 0.10 miles from the intersection of U.S. Rt. 119 and Kentucky Route 319.
“Any filling done along Pond Creek will be catastrophic for all the residents and businesses located upstream from the Southside Elementary School. Prior to the new school being built, when the water would rise, it would flow down, hit the bridge and spread out into the bottom. However; when the new school was built, the entire bottom was filled all the way out to the creek. This obstructs the flow of the water and causes it to back up, flooding the homes and businesses that are located upstream from the school.
“In May of 2009, the majority of homes and businesses located upstream from the school property sustained severe flood damage with a minimum of 2 feet of flood water getting inside the establishments. The flooding risk is at a very high level every time it rains as it now stands, let alone adding to the likelihood that the flooding could increase in intensity if more filling is allowed.
“As residents of the area, we are asking that you do not allow any more filling along Pond Creek. The water already has no place to go due to previous fillings; and if more filling is allowed along the creek, then everyone upstream from the Southside Elementary School is going to suffer more horrendous damage due to the flooding in this low-lying area of Pond Creek.
“The residents and businesses in this area that are fortunate enough to still have flood insurance protection in place are already experiencing a hardship in trying to pay the flood insurance premiums in this high-risk area. This year alone, the premiums saw an increase of approximately 25 percent. Any further filling along the creek will cause further flood damage and increased flood insurance claims, which in turn brings about an increase in insurance premiums.”
All interested parties are encouraged to attend the rally scheduled to be held on Friday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Turkey Creek Volunteer Fire Department (located at Rogers Park). A group of Toler residents plan to attend and speak with Rep. Hall, as well as Kentucky state Sen. Ray Jones about their concerns.
Residents also may also write a letter expressing their opinion on the issue and mail it to the address listed above.