Local levee is worthy of top priority status

The levee that protects Williamsport and its surrounding municipalities is listed as the top priority in the Lycoming County Comprehensive Plan as identified by the Greater Williamsport Alliance. And the numbers associated with the levee underline what being a top priority means.

Based on the latest Lycoming County assessment, the Greater Williamsport area contains $2 billion worth of residential, business, industrial and commercial property. Of that, $1 billion in property is protected by the levee.

The good news is that the levee that protects that property is working now and has worked in the past. In 1972, when Tropical Storm Agnes inflicted flood damage and misery on nearby municipalities, the levee protected the city and much of the surrounding municipalities from catastrophic flooding. Water came 18 inches from breeching the level.

Forty-five years later, the levee is still working, as a number of flooding events have shown.

But it needs repaired.

And the work is expensive, with repair and design costs of $10 million.

Without repair of deficiencies, the Army Corps of Engineers will not recertify the levee as meeting Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines. And that is not an option.

The work includes rehabilitation and/or replacement of relief wells, reinforcement and repair to flood walls and replacement of cross pipes in the levee. The levee needs these repairs in the next few years, according to engineers who have been studying it for several years and come up with a plan to get the levee recertified.

Predictably, the price tag for the work is steep, with more than $6 million in costs associated with the city. That’s why levee recertification is such a hot topic during city budget discussions and whenever Williamsport’s spending priorities are addressed.

For what it protects, there is no question that keeping the Greater Williamsport levee system in top condition is a worthy priority that deserves some sort of cost sharing among all the municipalities that are part of it.