2017-08-10 / Front Page

County Announces Flood Meeting at Athens High School on Sept. 28

By Cain Chamberlin

The Bradford County Board of Commissioners is continuing its clash with the state to implement a program at the local level, which would give municipalities and county conservation districts the authority to perform stream bank maintenance and other flood prevention measures. 

During the regular meeting on Thursday, Aug. 10, the commissioners announced local, state and federal officials, the media and members of the public would be invited to a town hall meeting at the Athens High School at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28.

“We’re going to be working with commissioners from other counties, we’re going to ask (township) supervisors to come, we’ll be sending out invitations to state and federal people for RSVPs, and the rest of the seating will be for the general public,” said Commissioner Doug McLinko. 

With a capacity of roughly 900 in the school’s auditorium, the commissioners said the public will be admitted on a first come, first serve basis.

The town hall is geared toward implementing a plan that would allow the cleaning out of gravel and debris that contribute to the flooding of local streams and creeks. The issue came to the forefront following severe flash flooding in the northeastern part of the county on July 23 and 24, have devastating impacts on areas in Rome Borough and Township, Windham Township, Orwell Township and other surrounding areas.

During the flooding, it was reported gravel and other debris clogged drainage pipes and culverts beneath roads and bridges, causing the streams to change course and cause immense damage to homes and property. Several roads and bridges were washed out as a result of the storm.

Commissioner Daryl Miller said, “This is not just an issue in Bradford County, but across the region.”

McLinko said until the state agrees to cooperate with the counties, municipalities and landowners, “there’s really nothing we can do at the local level.

“We have no jurisdiction over the steams,” he said. “It all comes down to our state elected officials in Harrisburg.”

Commissioner Ed Bustin said the board has been in contact with former commissioner Mark Smith, who is now director of Gov. Tom Wolf’s Government Affairs and Outreach, as well as deputy director of intergovernmental affairs Billy Kirkland in Washington, DC, about the town hall.

“We have not been able to confirm if someone from the White House will be attending, but we hope they will,” said Bustin.

He noted that the overall goal of the town hall is to collaborate with the state and put a plan for flood prevention into motion.

“We want to be able to come to that meeting and say, ‘Here’s the plan.’ We don’t want to have to come before those people and say, ‘We don’t know what to do.’ But, we also want to have representatives there and talk about their department’s responsibilities, whether that’s a state or federal department,” said Bustin.

The commissioners have spoken about a pilot program that was developed by the Bradford County Conservation District following the 2011 flooding left by Tropical Storm Lee that would allow local level government and organizations like the conservation district to clean and maintain stream banks in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.

Miller noted that while the pilot program has been implemented in municipalities and counties in New York State, it was hindered from being implemented in Pennsylvania by legislators in Harrisburg.

“There were a fair amount of negotiations between DEP and others, but at the end of the day it kind of fell through, so there’s some discussion about what we want to do differently this time,” commented Bustin in reference to the program.

Bustin, who sits on the Energy, Environment and Land Use Committee of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), said the organization will soon be voting on a resolution regarding its stance on cleaning out streams across the commonwealth to help prevent flooding.

Bustin said there seemed to be widespread support for the resolution among the committee thus far.

If passed by CCAP, the Article VIII amendment to Section G would add a subsection stating: “The Association supports new approaches to stream management that allow local governments and cooperating agencies to stabilize hydrology in watersheds and mitigate sediment sources to reduce the imminent threat to public health and safety, and further encourages renewed cooperation between federal, state and local agencies to achieve these goals.”

A statement attached to the resolution explains why the committee is in favor of the resolution and subsequent action.

“Due to concerns about wildlife and ecosystems, acquiring permits to remove sediment and debris from local streams can be very challenging. There is a need to balance those (environmental) concerns with public health and safety needs, though, as buildup of sediments and other materials (in streams) can be a factor in where flooding occurs and how severe it may be.”

Bustin said the opinions and resolutions of CCAP can have an immense impact on legislation in the state, and this resolution could more effectively bring the issue of stream bank maintenance to the attention of lawmakers in Harrisburg.

 

 

Return to top

Copyright 2011-2017 Rocket-Courier. All rights reserved.