WYOMING — Residents have clamored for a feasibility study of West Pittston flood control options. They finally got their chance to ask questions and hear from the people in charge of conducting the study.
Nearly 100 residents packed the auditorium of Wyoming Area Secondary Center to listen to engineering and architecture firm Borton-Lawson, along with Reilly Associates and borough project management consultant Jim Brozena, give a presentation as part of the study kickoff Wednesday night.
“Your input is valuable because you might alert us to issues we might not know about,” said Thomas Lawson, of Wilkes-Barre-based Borton-Lawson.
Residents have called for levee protection since September 2011, when record flooding related to Tropical Storm Lee damaged more than 800 borough structures. An ice jam in 2018 also caused minor flooding along Susquehanna Avenue.
The feasibility study was made possible after the Luzerne County Community Development Office awarded $225,000 to West Pittston to analyze all options for a solution.
Jim Brozena said the study will look at both sides of the Susquehanna River from the Eighth Street Bridge all the way up to the Luzerne/Wyoming County line, including the Lackawanna River.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers completed a study in March 2017 that said a levy around West Pittston would cost $51 million. The benefit-to-cost ratio would be 37 cents for every dollar, according to Brozena.
“That’s not a good investment,” said Brozena. “Plus the Corps of Engineers take between 25 to 30 years to complete a project. They don’t have watches, they have glaciers.”
Lawson helped instill optimism to borough residents when he told them that one of the chief goals of the study is coming up with a system that would be more cost effective then the Corps of Engineers study.
The study will include looking at dredging, island removal, bladders, levees and walls or what could happen if nothing is done.
Lawson cited a Bloomsburg project as an example. After the Corps of Engineers denied the people of Bloomsburg, they went with a non-federal project garnering funds in another way that didn’t rely on them. All said and done, the project was completed within five years, according to Lawson.
Residents asked questions if they would see an increase in their property taxes or the possibility if some homes would not to be taken from Susquehanna Avenue.
“There might be some changes, but it’s too early to tell,” Brozena said. “We are looking to identify funding programs on the local, state and federal level. Hopefully in six months we can put all the feedback from everyone together and give the residents a recommendation.”
Reach Dan Stokes at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes