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Flood Victims Memorialized, Reports Unfinished


City Council has cleared the way for a memorial to be built honoring victims of Tropical Storm Gaston, just as business owners in Shockoe Bottom await the findings of two reports that could change the status of the area.

In the wake of Gaston, which hit Aug. 30, 2004, Sen. George Allen asked the Army Corps of Engineers to draw a second, interior flood plain for much of Shockoe Bottom, says Benjamin Johnson, coordinator of emergency management for the city.

The Bottom already is included in a flood plain for the James River, which shows the areas vulnerable to flooding from the river.

For more than a year, Army engineers have been working to outline which Shockoe Bottom properties — mostly north of Broad Street — would be affected by the flooding of Shockoe Creek, Bacon's Quarter Creek and Canon Branch Creek, which run below ground and caused significant damage during Gaston. The Federal Emergency Management Agency presented a 54-page report on Gaston to Congress in March 2005.

Johnson says FEMA is conducting a second report, which will include recommendations for changes in the wake of the storm.

With both reports in progress, Johnson says he hasn't seen a preliminary copy of either one. But the Army Corps findings are about 95 percent complete, he says.

The FEMA report was put on hold after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast last year, and local FEMA workers were "all pulled away" to Louisiana, Johnson says. Work on that report has resumed, Johnson says, and is expected to be completed soon.

Meantime, on the eve of Gaston's second anniversary and during City Council's last meeting before an August recess, the council adopted a resolution July 24 authorizing the creation of a memorial to victims of Gaston. Details have yet to be determined, but the resolution states that private sources will raise the money for the memorial.

Five city residents died as a result of the flooding; nine statewide. City Council wants people to remember this — not just that buildings and businesses were damaged.

"What we wanted to do was move the process along," says Councilwoman Delores McQuinn, whose 7th District includes parts of the city devastated by the storm, has taken a lead in the memorial. Two who died lived in her district, she adds.

After last week's flooding in the Bottom, Mayor L. Douglas Wilder was scheduled to hold a public meeting on the issue at 11 a.m. Aug. 23 at The Old City Bar, 1548 E. Main St. S

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