Study of West Pittston flood-control options underway

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - [email protected]
As shown in this file photo, more than 800 West Pittston structures were flooded when the Susquehanna River rose to a record height in September 2011, prompting many residents to call for a levee. File photo As shown in this file photo, more than 800 West Pittston structures were flooded when the Susquehanna River rose to a record height in September 2011, prompting many residents to call for a levee. - File photo

WEST PITTSTON — After years of pleas from residents, a feasibility study of borough flood control options is underway.

Residents have been calling for levee protection since September 2011, when more than 800 borough structures were damaged by record Susquehanna River flooding. An ice jam in January 2018 also caused minor flooding along Susquehanna Avenue.

Because a study is needed to advance a project, Luzerne County’s Community Development Office last year awarded $225,000 to the borough to analyze all options. Wilkes-Barre-based Borton-Lawson will complete the study, with help from sub-contractor Reilly Associates in Pittston and guidance from borough project management consultant Jim Brozena.

As part of the study kickoff, residents are encouraged to attend a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Wyoming Area Secondary Center, 252 Memorial St. in Exeter.

The meeting is an opportunity for the public to ask questions and provide comments about the new study parameters, Brozena said Monday.

The costs and pros and cons of river dredging, river island removal and both inflatable and permanent levees will be explored, he said. The projected impact of a “do nothing alternative” also will be included, he said.

Analysis will zero in on the river stretch from Exeter Township near the Wyoming County border down to the area of the Eighth Street Bridge connecting Wyoming to Jenkins Township, he said.

“When the study is done, borough officials will have a concept document that will allow them to start the process of trying to secure funding to implement that plan,” Brozena said.

Borton-Lawson representative Thomas E. Lawson said Monday he wants citizens to take advantage of the opportunity to get involved, including those in adjacent upstream and downstream communities. He said he wants to make sure no suggestions or worries are overlooked.

The consultants already have compiled extensive data, including Federal Emergency Management Agency studies that have been updated since Tropical Storm Lee made the river swell to 42.66 feet in 2011, Lawson said.

When examining flood-control options, the consultants will study what, if any, impact each may have on other municipalities along the river, Brozena said.

“We want to identify all questions so when the document is done, it will address all of the public’s concerns,” Brozena said.

A borough resident had suggested consideration of an inflatable dam, also called a bladder dam, which would be filled largely with water from the river during flooding. During a presentation about that idea last year, another resident expressed concerns the system would not rise high enough or withstand breaches.

County community development funding for the study came from a $25.4 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocation to fix lingering damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, said county Community Development Executive Director Andrew Reilly. Most of that funding has been spent on or earmarked for flood-damaged infrastructure repairs and the purchase and demolition of flood zone structures, he said.

As shown in this file photo, more than 800 West Pittston structures were flooded when the Susquehanna River rose to a record height in September 2011, prompting many residents to call for a levee.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/web1_westpittston.jpgAs shown in this file photo, more than 800 West Pittston structures were flooded when the Susquehanna River rose to a record height in September 2011, prompting many residents to call for a levee. File photo

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.