Covington residents seek help with stream banks

COVINGTON – Three Covington area residents asked the Tioga County Commissioners to help them “save Covington” from the potential ravages of the next high water event.

Dave Kurzejewski, Stuart Lisowski and Foster Marvin all commented during the commissioners “road” meeting in their community Tuesday night on how much damage already has been done along the Tioga River from past high water events.

Kurzejewski said the next one would “take out Covington,” if something isn’t done, and soon, to shore up the deteriorated banks of the river.

“There is about 10 feet holding the river together. Is there anything you can do to bring the Army Corps in to at least look at it?” he asked.

He also asked if the commissioners could “come and take a look.”

“The river is cutting into one of the best cornfields in the valley, we have lost 18-20 acres of land already,” he said, referring to the Marvin and Lisowski, who both have farm fields.

“Something needs to be done. It will take the east side and the west side of Covington. It will take property and lives,” he added.

Commissioner Erick Coolidge reminded the men that during the last administration, the county “missed an opportunity” to get $750,000 if the Army Corps had been able to come in and do a study to address the issues.

“There was a big hoopla in the courthouse and you lost your opportunity. I am very frustrated we didn’t have the opportunity to correct these problems,” Coolidge said, adding that he has the same problems in his own farm fields near Wellsboro.

“The issue is dead, we needed to have the study done to address these issues. I don’t know with the financial duress we are in in this country that there would be a sympathetic ear turned to this issue. It’s not a new story, it’s an old issue, but we missed it,” he said.

The men then asked Coolidge how much money the county receives from Act 13 and if any of it could be used to reclaim the streams.

Currently the county has about $8 million in Act 13 funds.

Coolidge said the money can be spent within the 13 categories outlined by the state, but it wouldn’t help unless they were allowed to get into the river to do the work that needed to be done, and current law does not allow that.

“Once in awhile they will let someone get in on an emergency permit,” he added.

Kurzejewski said he has one, and another man said he has permits to remove gravel bars for 1,500 feet of the river where it traverses his property for five years and he just got it extended it to seven.

“We have been in there multiple times to remove gravel bars, but we cannot repair the stream banks, and that is where we need help,” Lisowski said.

“I know PennDOT has repaired stream banks next to highways. And we are hoping we can get help with that. We have stockpiled materials to salvage our stream banks,” Marvin added

“We will lose the bridge here on Route 15 (near Buidings Inc.) if we get another high water event,” he said, adding “It will take several houses, and people the next time.”

Commissioner Mark Hamilton said the commissioners would be “willing to go to bat again,” but “we are not going to solve this tonight.”

He suggested they meet and get their heads together on how best to proceed.