We cannot wait to rebuild our flood control infrastructure

The recent flooding events throughout Central Pennsylvania have served as a clear reminder of the challenges of living near a body of water. While detailed estimates are not yet available, my guess is that many millions of dollars in property damage has occurred because of the most recent storm events. This includes homes, businesses, and public infrastructure.

Anyone who has ever experienced the aftermath of a flood knows all too well the total devastation that high waters leave behind.

In 1996, as a 15-year-old kid, I remember witnessing the aftermath of a winter flood that cost people their lives and properties along Lycoming Creek.

I saw grown men cry as they sorted through the rubble piled up where their homes once were.

Those images have never left me and likely never will.

Our region faces two major flood control challenges: Eliminating deficiencies identified with our Levee system and controlling runoff associated with Grafius Run in Loyalsock and Williamsport.

We cannot wait to address these problems.

Two-hundred and sixty-nine homes in Williamsport and Loyalsock are affected (on average 10 times a year) with flooding each time Grafius Run overflows.

Residents are forced to deal with raw sewage in their basements, costly repairs to appliances, and reduced home values.

This is unacceptable.

The City has a moral obligation to help these people in any way possible.

Currently the City is developing a plan to survey property owners near Grafius Run to develop an economic justification for a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Flood Protection Feasibility Study to begin.

The goal of these efforts to convince DEP to construct a flood control system to eliminate this problem.

South Williamsport Borough and the City of Williamsport are working along with Loyalsock and Old Lycoming Townships to develop a SWIF Plan which is required by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to respond to deficiencies associated with the Levee System.

If a plan to repair unsatisfactory elements is not presented to the USACE, certain properties behind the levee will face mandatory requirements to buy flood insurance and federal funds will not be available to help with flooding which would occur because of Levee failure.

In a worst-case scenario, the Levee could experience a breech, which would cause serious damage and may even cost people their lives.

Local leaders have been working together to develop a funding strategy for SWIF Plan implementation.

This plan will likely include federal, state, and local participation.

We will have to make sacrifices, but it will be worth it.

State Senator Gene Yaw and Congressman Tom Marino have been at the forefront of efforts to secure state and federal monies for this project.

While there are many important projects in central Lycoming County, none are more important than those that keep our citizens safe.

We must act now and prioritize these efforts.

Before we invest in ballparks, bus stops, streetscapes, or trails, we must make sure that our critical infrastructure needs are met.

After all, public safety is the number one priority of local government.

Fitzgerald, a Williamsport resident, is the president of Penn Strategies, a Harrisburg-based economic development firm that is a consultant to the city of Williamsport in its efforts to secure grants and other financing for various projects.

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