Municipalities and Residents Urged to Contact DEP Before Working on Damaged Stream Channels
Citing experience with 1972’s Hurricane Agnes, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is urging municipalities and residents impacted by the flooding from Tropical Storm Lee to contact the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) before conducting any work to reconstruct damaged stream channels.
“Hurricane Agnes in 1972 arguably caused the greatest flood-related destruction in recent memory state-wide, and the widespread damage sparked massive cleanup efforts across the state,” said Dave Spotts, chief of the PFBC Division of Environmental Services. “In that era, government regulatory agencies attempted to issue emergency permits that allowed municipalities and residents to clear debris and reconstruct stream channels in and around some of Pennsylvania's streams.”
“Unknowingly, well-intentioned restoration efforts often were unpermitted, ill-defined or excessive, which hindered the natural recovery of these waters,” he added. “However, it is important to remember that these sensitive aquatic ecosystems also have to recover from the wrath of Mother Nature, much like Pennsylvania's residents.”
Prior to conducting any work within stream channels, individuals must first contact a DEP regional office. Depending upon the scope and size of the proposed stream restoration project, as well as what kind of equipment is needed to be used in the stream, DEP will direct the applicant to acquire one of several waterway encroachment permits. The permits are classified as emergency, general, or a PA/Federal Joint. DEP often seeks input from various resource agencies, such as the Fish and Boat Commission, to incorporate plans to help a stream recover.
DEP recently released a fact sheet called "Permitting Options for Flood-Damaged Bridges and Other Water Obstructions and Encroachments." The fact sheet includes regional contact information and can be found at: http://www.elibrary.dep.state.pa.us/dsweb/Get/Document-85317/3800-FS-DEP4341.pdf. The DEP website is http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/. To find your nearest regional office, choose “Regional Resources” on the left-hand side of the website’s home page.
“History has shown that large-scale flood events can dramatically change the landscape,” said Spotts. “During these events, it is difficult for a Pennsylvania resident to stand by and watch flood waters destroy property and possessions without taking action. When prioritizing a recovery plan for your property, we urge you to consult with DEP to obtain guidance in the recovery process.”