The Centre County commissioners were updated Tuesday on watershed work in response to erosion and flooding caused by heavy rains in 2016.
Almost one year ago, areas around the county were flooded after downpours dropped 8-10 inches of rain, Conservation District manager Robert Sweitzer told commissioners. Areas in the Bald Eagle Valley and Howard Township were hit particularly hard, with flooding also reported in Lycoming, Sullivan and Bradford counties.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced in December that federal disaster assistance would be made available to the four counties. The funds became available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection program, Sweitzer said.
The county was awarded $187,800 in grant funding, he said, and more than 30 sites were evaluated by the conservation service and the state Department of Environmental Protection. In the end, he said, three sites owned by 10 separate landowners were deemed eligible for work.
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The contract was awarded to Steven Kreiger Excavating, of Saxton, in June, he said, as work ran from July 17 through Aug. 4.
“As with a lot of federal programs, it takes time to get the funding allocated, review sites, prioritize and do the contracting,” Sweitzer said.
Work involved sites in Coleville, Julian and Howard Township, he said, rebuilding stream banks and removing debris from stream beds. “Significant erosion” needed stabilizing, he said, and in one case, flooding came within about five feet of one residence.
The maintenance of these waterways now falls on the landowners, he said, as part of the temporary easement agreement to work on their land.
Unfortunately, for the other sites evaluated but not deemed eligible, he said, funding is not available to do any additional work, however the conservation district is able to provide any technical recommendations for landowners with issues.
Swietzer thanked the commissioners for sponsoring the project, saying the county made it easier for work to get done by coming to the commissioners for the agreement instead of needing to go to the individual municipalities.
“We very much appreciate that the commissioners stepped forward and took the initial role,” he said.
In related county-construction news, the commissioners will consider allocating Act 13 “at risk local bridge funding” to two bridge projects.
Up to $87,500 could be allocated to the Lower Georges Valley Road bridge in Gregg Township, commissioners said, to help cover the $1.7 million project. Work on the bridge would include abutment repair and lengthening the bridge.
A total of $100,000 could also be allocated for repairs on the Gorton Road bridge in Snow Shoe Township, commissioners said. This would cover about 25 percent of the total cost of the project.
Commissioners are expected to vote on the allocations next week.