Seasonal stream flooding and property damages due to flooding have been a way of life in eastern Kentucky since the area was settled in the late 1700's. Unfortunately, losses of life due to recurring floods are also an ongoing threat to the citizens of this region. Flash flooding usually associated with intense spring and summer storms still threatens several communities in Floyd County and especially the town of Martin, Kentucky. Records of regional flooding dating back to 1862 portray a rural countryside where living within the floodplain can be dangerous and costly. Since the 1862 flood, 36 additional damaging floods have been recorded in the Levisa Fork Basin.
The population of Martin has experienced the damaging effects of numerous historic floods to varying degrees, but the January 1957 flood was the first flood of record. Estimates of the flood damages in the town of Martin exceeded $5.0 million dollars. This flood of record was surpassed by the April 1977 flood event in terms of flooding depths and damages in Martin and the Levisa Fork valley. Flood depths exceeded 9 feet on Martin's main street during the April 1977 flood - a flood that exceeded the flood of record in 1957 and resulted in damages throughout the Levisa Fork valley exceeding $195.0 million.
As a result of the April 1977 flood, Congress enacted legislation entitled as Section 202 of the Energy and Water Resources Development Appropriations Act of 1981. That Act provided authority for the Corps of Engineers to develop, with local citizens input, innovative methods of flood damage reduction that would both reduce damages and potential threats to life as well as regenerate communities devastated by years of flooding. The Act directed the Corps to design and construct flood control measures that would protect lives and property from a recurrence of the April 1977 flood event in the Tug Fork and Levisa Forks of the Big Sandy River.
Subsequent flooding in the Big Sandy River sub-basin in May 1984 resulted in Congressional enactment of Public Law 98-332. That Act appropriated funding for implementation of nonstructural measures in the Tug Fork basin - nonstructural measures that have proven successful in reducing both flood damages and threats to human life. These nonstructural measures provided a foundation for formulation of the Town of Martin Redevelopment Plan that is described in the following pages.