Representatives from the Division of Water were in Olive Hill Friday, Sept. 17, at the request of Olive Hill Mayor Danny Sparks and Carter County Judge Executive Charles Wallace.
“I just wanted to make sure we are okay with the Division of Water,” Sparks said concerning the digging and removal of dirt that had begun on the banks of Tygart Creek in Olive Hill.
“We were working on filing for a permit, but we found out that we don't need one,” Sparks said. “We're not getting in the water and not disturbing the flow of the creek. These guys just came in to verify that as long as we stay a foot above the water we will stay within the guidelines.”
Sparks said if they take the cleanup to another level and actually have to get into the water, then a permit will be requested.
“It's a timely thing and would probably take at least a year,” Sparks said.
Judy Roark was named coordinator for the Tygart Creek cleaning project by Mayor Sparks.
“It's very interesting. We are working on what is called a one-scoop method,” Roark said. “This is a requirement with the Division of Water. When the excavator picks up a scoop of dirt we have to have a truck there for it to go in. It cannot be put back on the ground. It also has to be removed from the flood plain, for fear that additional rains may wash it back into the water.”
Roark said more trucks were needed. Anyone needing fill dirt can pick it up free of charge.
Judge Charles Wallace has received approval from Mountain Enterprise to store any dirt and/or debris that no one else wants to pick up from what is taken from the creek.
“The material can be taken to the old rock quarry just outside of Olive Hill,” said Wallace.
Wallace said he hoped they could soon be working seven days a week to clean out the creek.
“Every bucket of dirt we take out is one less bucket of water that won’t be giong into the city if we get hard rain,” Wallace said.
According to Donny Lykins with Olive Hill Flood No More, Mayor Sparks will be cleaning from Hwy. 174 to “Backbone”, OHFNM will clean from “Backbone” to the county line, and from there the county will pick up.
Earlier this year, Lykins set up the nonprofit-501c3 corporation Olive Hill Flood No More to study the flooding in and around Olive Hill.
“I want us to do what we can to stop the constant flooding that has gone on in the Olive Hill Area for years,” Lykins said.
I got tired of hearing that we couldn’t clean out Tygart because of crawdads and mussels. I had asked every governmental agency on a national, state and local level for help with the flooding in Olive Hill that happens every time it rains hard, and everyone said that something needed to be done but nothing was happing so on May 25, 2010 we formed Olive Hill Flood No More, also called OHFNM.”
Lykins said after contacting several state and federal agencies he was told several times that on a national and state level the government could deal better with a non-profit corporation than they could with a person or with a for-profit corporation. He added a nonprofit 501c3 corporation can also give tax credits to anyone that helps.
Lykins said, “I have been asked 'what prompted me to take on a project like this' by a lot of people and to set the record straight, I am not running for any office, and I haven’t asked the city or the county for any financial help. For years I have heard everyone say “they need to do something to stop the flooding” and I realized that there isn’t a “they” out there, this project is just too big for a town to do. I am doing this for the people and businesses of Olive Hill. Most of the ones who are getting hurt the worst are older and retired and are helpless to do anything about the problem and this flooding is going to stop. I hoped that if someone started the ball rolling it would help prompt local, state and federal governments to help.”
He said the intention of OHFNM is to stop the flooding that has devastated this area for so long.
“It is so heart rendering to watch people and businesses lose everything they own over and over again. The people in the downtown area just keep losing their stuff, pictures of their kids, their clothes, their furniture. One elderly woman told me, 'I lost my family bible, in the last flood and it had been in my family for generations'. And, the businesses should not have to start over year after year.”
Lykins said he is counting on OHFNM being successful in their efforts.
“Before we started doing anything we studied the entire problem and picked out the things causing the flooding that we could do something about,” Lykins said. “After we studied the problem I drove to the Corps of Engineers office and sat down and laid out the issues that we have facing us, what has been causing the flooding and what we proposed to do about the problem. Going in with a complete plan enabled us to be able to set down and discuss the problems and draw up a battle plan to stop the flooding. After they looked over the OHFNM plan, they said that 'I could stop the flooding cheaper than they could do the studies the government would have to do to accomplish the same thing'. Then OHFNM started filing for permits and getting the necessary inspections done.”
Lykins outlined the plans discussed with the Corps of Engineers in seven steps.
1.First, removing the dirt buildup in Tygart. The pile of dirt in front of the sewer plant is about 50 feet wide, 10 feet high and over 500 feet long. It starts at the sewer manhole in Tygart, that should have been moved years ago and goes almost to the first bend in the stream. (David Hayes talked with Mountain Machinery and got them to donate an excavator and Jill York bought and paid for 500 gallons of diesel. The City of Olive Hill already had the right to maintain 300 feet in front of the sewer plant and that is where Mayor Danny Sparks had the work started, the work in front of the sewer plant has all been done by the city).
The second pile of dirt starts right at backbone and averages 7 feet high, 74 feet wide and is nearly 900 feet long, (that is about as high as most doors, wide as a basketball court, and as long as three football fields).
Cleaning Tygart just inside of town won’t do much good if we don’t clean Tygart all the way to the Rowan County line.
2.Clean out Mills Branch and Town Branch, and fix the retaining walls holding the dirt out of those streams, and fix the flood gates at the end of Mills Branch where it enters Tygart (Senator Robin Webb pulled some strings and had the Kentucky Department of Soil Conservation come in and do this job.)
3.Obtain the right to lower the old railroad bed down to the high water mark so that when the creek starts rising the water has someplace to go and not just start flooding downtown. It is important for it to be a high water overflow and not a new streambed, so it can be maintained. The old Railroad bed is not wide enough to replace the old streambed but during heavy rains when the water level of Tygart reached the high water mark there would be two channels for the water to leave town, not just one. The Ky Dept. of Water has already approved this project, and as soon the details can be worked out with the landowner of the property, then we can start removing the dirt. The landowner has expressed a desire for a land transfer with the city of Olive Hill for a piece of property the city does not use. This needs to be the major focus of the city of Olive Hill. Get the property and we will clean it out for them. This is something that should have been done as soon as the railroad track was taken up.
4.Remove the sediment from the mouth of Ben’s Run Creek so that Ben’s Run no longer enters Tygart head on right at Backbone pointed straight for Olive Hill in a Northwest direction. This creates a dam of water right at backbone creating a huge obstruction to the flow of water right at the worst possible place.
5.Build small dams in hollows all around the Tygart Water Shed, and we need to build about 100 ponds. The permission for this has been a nightmare, for each project we need to work with the landowner, the Corps of Engineers, and the Kentucky Department of Water. OHFNM recently got permission from the landowners along Mills Branch from Blueberry Ridge to town to build ponds to arrest the flow of water before it gets to the downtown area. The major two landowners have a bulldozer and if OHFNM works out the permission from the Corps of Engineers and Ky Dept. of Water then they will go ahead and do the dozer work and build the dams, in exchange we will give them a tax credit letter from OHFNM for their cost of building the dams, and a tax credit letter to lease the property the ponds are on, as a water storage for the next 10 years. The Ky. Dept. of Water and the Corps of Engineers are doing their inspections Sept. 23 and 24 for this project.
6. Replant trees and sow grass in areas that have been timbered and dozed and the dirt is just washing into the watershed every time it rains.
7.Cut out trees and brush and drag tires and debris out of Tygart to prevent the slowing of water when the water is up, downstream of Olive Hill. This permission from the state was harder to get than you would believe. At last they agreed that we could cut down trees and drag them out of the waterway as long as we left the root systems so the banks wouldn’t just fall in the stream. We have been already working on this and have removed a lot of blockages out of the stream flow already. OHFNM has bought a wrecker to pull some of the debris out of the stream and Bubba Johnson has been using his wrecker and roll back to help with this. To date, we have removed 24 truck loads of tires out of the stream.
Lykins said OHFNM welcomes help from others.
“Time, money, equipment, and landowners permission are all needed,” Lykins said. “Each piece of equipment takes about 8 gallons of diesel, at $3 a gallon we will soon be spending over $300 an hour for diesel fuel alone. We had to buy some dump trucks and more are needed, as well as other equipment, insurance, workers’ comp, and some of the helpers that we have hired, plus we have to pay for engineering reports and studies. OHFNM has already spent several thousand dollars on this project and this is not state nor federal money. We do not have the luxury of waiting to see if we get grants from the government. This is a local problem and we need to fix it ourselves. We need drivers to drive trucks, more equipment, and we need to build a lot of dams and fix the soil erosion problem. Money is always a problem and anyone who wants to make a donation can do so at either the Commercial Bank or the First National Bank, just tell the tellers that you want to help with the flood project. They will take any size donation and you can get a tax credit for your donation if you give your name and address. For any donations of $100 the person who donates, in addition to a tax credit, will also be entitled to a free load of dirt delivered to them and a free T-shirt. To volunteer time or equipment call 606-776-9875, also see our web site www.olivehillfloodnomore.com.”
Lykins added he feels OHFNM is right on schedule with where he hoped they would be at this time, and that Olive Hill and Carter County are doing their part.
“The stream permits have all been applied for. The city of Olive Hill has applied for a permit from the city limits at KY174, to backbone, Olive Hill Flood No More has already been approved for a permit to clean Tygart from Backbone to about ½ mile downstream from town and for a permit to store dirt and sediment outside of the flood plain, and the Carter County Fiscal Court has applied for a permit from the end of our project to Field’s Bridge,” Lykins said.
“It can take several months to receive a permit but hopefully the city and county can have their permits by the time the work under OHFNM permit is done. The Dept. of Soil Conservation has had Mills Branch and Town Branch cleaned out and some retaining walls replaced, we still need a retaining walls repaired between Pam Adkins’s business, the Vintage House and Bonita Lowes’s Beauty Shop. We have arranged with several landowners to build ponds and plant trees and sow grass on their property. We have cut up and removed a lot of the blockages of trees, power poles, cross ties, and tires out of Tygart. Hopefully in the very near future, if everything works out, a high water overflow can be dug out.”
Lykins explained they have also been studying the streams all over Carter County and they feel the streams in the county are a wreck.
“At Pleasant Valley between Counts Hollow and US 60 a retaining wall has collapsed in the creek after the last rain and if it doesn’t get jack-hammered and removed then every building from the Pleasant Valley Store to Counts Hollow are going to be destroyed,” Lykins said.
“ We are having several vehicles towed out of creeks all over the county, including a pickup at Grahn that we have scheduled to be pulled out of the creek this week. The creeks are full of dirt and gravel and very few streams in Carter County have more than 20 percent of the water flow they should have. With the help of Judge Ex. Wallace and the Carter County Fiscal Court we plan to see the streams of Carter County fixed and flowing freely before more property is destroyed and more lives are lost. Any help that anyone gives to us is greatly appreciated.”