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City, county using American Rescue Plan dollars to assist MUB with problem area

MORGANTOWN — Anyone who regularly drives by Shorty Anderson’s Auto Service, on Stewart Street, is familiar with the destructive nature of water.

It doesn’t care about roads, or yards, or automotive repair, for that matter.

Historically, the area is rarely dry, resulting in summer potholes — see Shorty’s hubcap memorial — and sheets of ice in the winter — see cars in Linda Hamrick’s front yard.

A significant rain event in June left the entire area submerged. It very nearly happened again in July.

But a fix looks to be in the forecast.

Both Morgantown City Council and the Monongalia County Commission are agreeable to allocating $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to the Morgantown Utility Board to get it taken care of.

Ken Hacker, MUB’s stormwater engineer, explained that simultaneous projects, each costing about $1 million, will restore roughly 3,000 feet of the Popenoe Run stream and replace 3,000 feet of 60-year-old, clay sanitary sewer lines in the area. Significant stormwater upgrades will also be included.

He explained that stream restoration will start just above Milan Puskar Stadium, cross Willowdale Road and then follow Randolph and Amherst roads, ending at Stewart Street. The sewer main to be addressed essentially runs parallel to the stream. Stormwater efforts will be focused on the upstream side of Stewart Street and parallel to Hoffman Avenue.

“The thought was always that these two projects needed to be completed concurrently. One will serve the other,” Hacker said. “You need to restore the stream and get the geometry of that stream back to better control the flows and stabilize the stream banks, and at the same time, replace the sanitary sewer main and increase its depth so that you can get these laterals, that are now exposed and visible, underground and protected.”

Hacker explained there are a number of steps that need to occur before shovels hit dirt, including the hiring of an engineering firm to tackle the natural stream design. Since a stream is involved, there will likely be a fairly extensive permitting process to follow.

“I would say it would be potentially sometime in 2022 that we could start construction, towards the end,” he said.

As to the cause of the problem, Hacker said development just outside Morgantown’s boundaries is a significant contributor. This despite the fact that only 25% of the area in question falls outside the city.

“We acknowledge that we only have 25% of the area that’s in this, but we also acknowledge that probably most of the problem comes from our border. We’re trying to take a comprehensive look at that,” Commission President Sean Sikora said, adding that the commission is looking to address the impacts of largely unregulated development with initiatives like subdivision regulations — potentially coming later this year — and its recently implemented orphan road grant program.

Sikora also noted that this project won’t fix all the flooding issues that made headlines this past summer.

But it will address a re-occurring problem and eliminate 3,000 feet of failing clay sewer lines, which Morgantown Assistant City Manager Emily Muzzarelli noted, are problems just waiting to happen.

“You’ve got to start one foot at a time,” she said.

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