Money to extend flood debris cleanup

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Cleaning of debris in area creeks and streams in Belmont County will continue for another year thanks to additional grant money from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The commissioners, in conjunction with the county’s Department of Job and Family Services, announced Wednesday the county will receive an additional $804,000 beyond the first year allocation of $1 million to update and clean past sites as well as begin cleaning and debris removal on dozens of additional sites.

The National Emergency Grant allocation will also make possible the employment of locals to do the work as cleanup crews.

The program has been ongoing since September of last year. The first round of funding came as a result of severe storms, heavy rain and flooding in the spring of 2011 and the accompanying state and federal disaster declarations.

Downed trees, limbs, brush, tires and other debris that had accumulated in the creeks following the damaging storms inhibited the flow of water, creating the potential for future flooding. The initial allocation of $1,005,00 was set to end Sept. 30. This additional grand funding will help alleviate this dangerous situation.

“This additional funding will allow us to extend the program for another year,” said Dwayne Pielech, director of the county DJFS. “There’s still a lot of cleanup work to be done, and this second round of funding will not only help address some problem areas in the local creeks and streams, but also provide temporary employment for even more local workers.”

Commissioner Charles R. Probst Jr. noted the costly damage and possible loss of life from flood waters and the value of preventive measures.

The department will also receive about $263,000 to address wind damage from storms in late June and early July.

To be eligible for the program, workers are required to have been dislocated, lost their job because of layoffs, or been unemployed for 15 of the past 26 weeks. Laborers are limited to working a total of 1,040 hours, or about six months, under the grand guidelines.

The application process will determine eligibility. Those hired through the program undergo training sessions including environmental education regarding the habits of endangered species in the area. These include mussels in the creeks, bats, salamander and other creatures.

Laborers earn $11 per hour. Crew leaders are paid $13 per hour. The county was able to hire 20 laborers divided into four crews, with one crew leader supervising each group. Many laborers that have been working on the crews during the past year have maxed out their hours and are being replaced by new workers.

Close to 60 Belmont County sites have been cleaned already. About 3,000 tons of debris has been hauled out. Tires, garbage and other materials are properly discarded. Trees and limbs are cut into firewood and given to property owners and others in the area.

A $50,000 portion of the grant is earmarked for heavy equipment. A John Deere Gator was purchased to allow workers to access remote sites with difficult terrain.

For additional information, contact (740) 633-JOBS.

DeFrank can be reached at