Clean-up of ice jam debris underway at River Common fishing pier

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
Luzerne County road and bridge and county Flood Protection Authority employees remove roots from trees destroyed by this winter’s ice jam at the River Common fishing pier in Wilkes-Barre Monday. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Crews rip out roots to make way for new trees at the River Common fishing pier, which was damaged by this year’s ice jam. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
A section of wall along the River Common fishing pier damaged by this winter’s ice jam. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Luzerne County workers and prison inmates clean up sediment left by an ice jam at the River Common recreation area along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre Monday. - - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Crews descended on the River Common fishing pier Monday to remove downed trees and sediment left by this year’s Susquehanna River ice jam, but the repair of a toppled section of the pier wall will take more time, Luzerne County officials said.

County Operational Services Division Head Edmund O’Neill said the large wall blocks, known as “cut stones,” fell over because the footing supporting them deteriorated. The stones appear to be in good condition and may possibly be reused, he said.

O’Neill plans to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine why the wall did not hold up and develop a scope of work to repair the damage.

“If there were deficiencies, we want to make sure they are corrected properly so hopefully this will not happen again,” he said.

The county must publicly seek prices from outside contractors to repair the wall because heavy equipment will be needed, O’Neill said.

It’s unclear if any outside funding will be available.

Although the fishing pier is linked to the Wyoming Valley Levee, county government owns the recreational portion and is responsible for repairing damage, officials have said.

The park was revamped for $23 million in 2009 with the addition of the fishing pier/landing, a new 750-seat amphitheater, walkways, extensive landscaping and a fountain that is no longer operating because it needs repairs.

The county Flood Protection Authority, which oversees the levee, provided some workers and equipment to help the county road and bridge department with Monday’s clean-up, said authority Executive Director Christopher Belleman.

County inmates also assisted.

A dirt cloud surrounded crews as they scraped up caked mud that was loaded onto trucks for removal. The workers also hauled away trees and ripped out tree roots to make way for new ones.

While the authority must focus on flood control, Belleman said he offered help with the tree removal because the plantings were added as part of the levee-raising to “soften the harsh look” of the system.

The authority received about 60 new trees for the levee system Monday that were purchased from a New York nursery with a $5,100 TreeVitalize grant obtained through the state Urban and Community Forestry Council, Belleman said.

The new arrivals will replace ash trees that were removed from 23 rest stations atop the levee last year because they were dead or dying due to the emerald ash borer, a beetle that causes trees to lose bark and become riddled with holes.

Approximately 10 of these new trees will be planted in the fishing pier area to replace ones destroyed by the ice jam, Belleman said.

A mix of hardy tree species was ordered to build diversity and provide shade, including red maples, London planetrees, hackberries and Accolade elms, he said.

With help from Wilkes University and King’s College student volunteers, the authority will start planting the new trees Tuesday, reaching the fishing pier by the end of the week, Belleman said.

The ice jam deposited many trees and debris along the levee toe and displaced stone riprap in spots along the 16-mile flood control system, but Belleman said he is confident this work can all be addressed in-house.

County road and bridge workers have another assignment Tuesday but should be back at the fishing pier Wednesday if necessary, O’Neill said.

The authority and county must continue to work together responding to ice jams, floods and other emergencies, Belleman said.

At the direction of county officials, the authority had started becoming a standalone entity in 2015, moving from a county-owned building to a Plains Township site and handling its own staffing funded by a fee on levee-protected properties.

“This was a very good cooperative effort,” Belleman said.

Luzerne County road and bridge and county Flood Protection Authority employees remove roots from trees destroyed by this winter’s ice jam at the River Common fishing pier in Wilkes-Barre Monday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL042418Riverfront2-2.jpgLuzerne County road and bridge and county Flood Protection Authority employees remove roots from trees destroyed by this winter’s ice jam at the River Common fishing pier in Wilkes-Barre Monday. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Crews rip out roots to make way for new trees at the River Common fishing pier, which was damaged by this year’s ice jam.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL042418Riverfront3-2.jpgCrews rip out roots to make way for new trees at the River Common fishing pier, which was damaged by this year’s ice jam. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

A section of wall along the River Common fishing pier damaged by this winter’s ice jam.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL042418Riverfront4-2.jpgA section of wall along the River Common fishing pier damaged by this winter’s ice jam. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

Luzerne County workers and prison inmates clean up sediment left by an ice jam at the River Common recreation area along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre Monday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL042418Riverfront1-2.jpgLuzerne County workers and prison inmates clean up sediment left by an ice jam at the River Common recreation area along the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre Monday. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Fishing pier was damaged during ice jam

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

[email protected]

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.