The Wyoming Valley Levee system’s wounds from record Susquehanna River flooding in 2011 have been repaired, a county official says.
Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority Executive Director Chris Belleman said he walked the levee last week with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a final inspection of repairs.
“Overall, the job is done. There are just a few minor punch list items that have to be addressed,” he said.
The federal government spent more than $1.3 million repairing pumps, flood gates, relief wells, boils and other damage along the 15-mile levee system, Belleman said. The Susquehanna swelled to 42.66 feet during Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011.
Some damage was not obvious to the general public, he said.
For example, two pumps in a building at the foot of the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre had to be refurbished.
The system’s 13 pump stations have deep water wells to collect drainage from the land side of the levee when it can no longer naturally feed into the Susquehanna during a flood. The pumps lift the collected water up over the levee wall and dump it onto concrete aprons into the Susquehanna.
A problem with the portable Market Street flood gates caused river flood water to leak onto River Street and enter the Market Street pump station in 2011, contaminating the pumps, Belleman said.
Pump equipment also was damaged by bricks that washed into the station underground, he said. Much of the city’s turn-of-the-century water drainage network is lined with bricks, and four truckloads of bricks had to be removed from the station’s well because so many dislodged in 2011, he said.
Sluice gates at two other Wilkes-Barre pump stations were replaced. These gates stop rising river water from backing up into nearby properties, possibly with enough force to dislodge some toilets from the floor, Belleman said.
Around 10 boils were repaired with fill that was properly graded and compacted, including one behind the Forty Fort Cemetery that had to be reinforced with sandbags and several hundred tons of rock and dirt in September 2011, he said.
Visible cracks in the concrete casing in Forty Fort also were filled and painted to blend in. The casing is more aesthetic because primary flood control comes from sheet pile hidden inside.
Belleman pointed to a post-flood picture of the Coal Creek outlet draining in Plymouth, which drains into the Susquehanna. Sediment and debris 20 feet high was deposited into the culvert in 2011 and was removed as part of the Army Corps project, eliminating a potential flood risk for nearby properties, he said.
New rubber gasket seals are safely in storage for the flood gates on both the Kingston and Wilkes-Barre sides of the Market Street Bridge, he said. Water pressure blew out the original seals in 2011 because the gate’s bottom panels did not rest properly on the ground, creating a gap. The guide plates that hold the gate panels in place have been modified to correct the problem.