The intent behind the award winning WV VOAD Bridge project is to provide families who were affected by 2015 & 2016 flooding and lack the resources to recover on their own with safe bridges that will be as resilient as possible to future storms. WV VOAD is partnering with disaster response agencies, state and local officials, federal agencies and businesses to efficiently coordinate volunteers, equipment and building materials with no cost to WV families. Bridges are built to a standard that exceeds state and federal standards. Here in West Virginia, our greatest resources are each other. This is a whole community effort. We are not just building bridges; we are connecting our children to education, our elderly to medical facilities, and our neighbors to us.
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WV VOAD Bridge Project Received the 2016 Innovative Program of the Year National VOAD Award!
Southern West Virginia residents experienced three separate flooding events from storms on April 3, April 8 and July 10 of 2015. Many residences were damaged and over 300 private water crossings were reported damaged or completely destroyed due to powerful floodwaters and heavy floating debris. In Lincoln County alone, where the pilot project was performed, over 80 residences experienced bridge or culvert destruction. Without aid, many of these families may never have the ability to safely access their houses.
Members at the monthly WV VOAD meeting in Charleston, WV on August 18, 2015 requested the development of a guideline for the design and construction of private bridge replacement for bridges that were destroyed by the flooding. The WV VOAD Bridge Committee was formed as a result to oversee this effort. This guideline was developed with the input of local, state, and federal agencies and advisors. The participants of the WV VOAD Bridge Committee, Bridge Committee Partners and Bridge Committee Advisors are listed in the appendices.
The majority of the destroyed private bridges were situated in a manner that created obstructions to the stream channel. The bridge superstructures were either below the flood water elevation and were therefore overtopped and/or the abutments were built protruding into the stream channel, restricting its natural width.
Bridge superstructures should ideally be reconstructed above the flood water elevation. For many of the sites this document addresses however, it is topographically impractical to achieve this since the bridge location itself is below the flood water elevation. In some cases the abutments of the bridges are directly adjacent to the highway right-of-way (generally 15ft from the center of the road in the project area) and ramping up to a higher elevation is not possible.
Economic resources in this area are severely limited. The poor state of construction of most of the bridges attests to the fact that the owners had limited economic means for design and construction. State and federal assistance is either unavailable or very limited for private bridges. A State of Emergency was declared for the storm events described in the introduction. Individual Assistance was requested for each event but denied by FEMA. As an economically depressed area, the private landowners have very limited economic means to assist in the reconstruction.
Due to their location, it is inevitable that bridges in this area will be overtopped by flood waters caused by severe storms within their expected lifetimes. As such, they will be subject to destructive forces. It is important to note that the proposed bridge replacement designs are not guaranteed to withstand these severe storms since that would make their construction cost prohibitive. The intent of the bridge replacement program is to provide structures that are as resilient as possible given the limited economic resources available.
See the full WV VOAD Private Bridge Replacement Guidelines