Last updated: July 19. 2014 1:37PM - 229 Views

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During Wednesday’s meeting between the Army Corp, FEMA, and local officials, West Pittston Mayor Tony Denisco questioned the possibility of expanding the levee system to protect his community, which is unprotected and saw 859 homes and businesses underwater in 2011. Col. Trey Jordan, Baltimore district commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, replied that raising or expanding the levee is highly unlikely because of the huge expense.

“My gut is telling me that although those 850 homes are very, very important, the benefit won’t be worth the amount of federal dollars,” Jordan said.

West Pittston Tomorrow and the residents at large are interested in an analysis of our “spill basin” not a gut reaction from the Colonel. We have stated here before that an analysis will reveal that West Pittston has endured many more millions in damage than the original 1994 Army Corp study predicted and TS Lee proved.

As Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority Executive Director Chris Belleman said the issue is simply the passage of time since the levee-raising project. “A lot’s changed in 30 years,” Belleman said. “The frequency and intensity of storms has increased, we’ve got increased land development in the watershed, the science has improved, the technology has improved to do this type of modeling. These have all coalesced together to come up with the results that we’re seeing today, 30 years after the fact.”

To clarify, West Pittston has requested a section 205 … PRE-analysis study … of the Army Corp, which would cost the Corp, relatively speaking, a measly $100K. We obviously want an opportunity to take advantage of the improved science and technology for modeling alluded to above by Chris Belleman.

When questioned as to the delay in a study, Tony Clarke of the Army Corp responded that “At this time, there have been no New Starts funded through the FY14 Work Plan.”

Accordingly, West Pittston is expected to sit and wait in harm’s way for pre-analysis funding while a new mapping and improvement analysis is about to begin.

Furthermore increased freeboard protection is contemplated for our downstream Plymouth and Hanover Twp. neighbors, because, as the Corp laments “unfortunately they did not have the factor of safety we needed.”

West Pittston’s present day safety factor is ZERO, increased protection downstream to enhance their “safety factor” would only exacerbate induced flooding in our upstream Borough. Would “unfair” aptly describe the situation … or is “outrageous” a better adjective?

If funding is available for plans to remap the flood plain around the Wyoming Valley Levee System, a four-year endeavor which will begin next year with a process called the Levee Analysis and Mapping Procedure, then surely a pre-analysis section 205 can begin today of West Pittston.

This is a clarion call to our elected, State, and Federal Congressman and Executives to reach out to the powers that be to make it happen. The voters of West Pittston remain intently interested.

Bob Russin

West Pittston Tomorrow

Levee Committee

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