Cost of city levee compliance huge, creation of municipal authority eyed

Total cost for the levee recertification process is about $14 million and the city and Lycoming County listened to engineers Monday who said one option to fund the project besides obtaining grants is to form a municipal authority to possibly assess fees in water and sewer bills.

In the meeting, Ghazoll Motlagh and James Barbis, of Wood, formerly Amec, described plans going forward.

The levee received an “unacceptable rating” in 2015 due to insufficient inspection records for cross pipes and relief wells, Motlagh said.

The city has been making progress towards recertification with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. During a meeting on Dec. 3, 2015, at the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority office, the Army Corps of Engineers representative stated the unacceptable rating was not going to be lifted and the city needed to submit a systemwide improvement framework letter of intent, Motlagh said.

That was submitted in Feb. 19, 2017, with a two-year commitment to complete the plan.

Wood was placed under contract on Dec. 14, 2017, at a cost of $67,950. It is working with the city to complete the plan, Motlagh said.

Motlagh said the Corps recently recommended the city ask for an extension on the plan, and begin to show efforts toward making repairs and seeking funding.

That is why we are working closely with state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, who wants a list of what he can assist the city with on a possible state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Programs grant, said Fran McJunkin, a deputy director in the County Department of Planning and hazard-mitigation and map director.

The first critical component of a combined $13.6 million estimated repairs is the relief well system in the city and in South Williamsport. It is estimated that the cost will be $2.25 million combined, with a $1.25 million cost for the city and the remainder left to South Williamsport, McJunkin said.

That relief well system is the first line of defense and can be a high risk in a flood event because the wells relieve water pressure and if one isn’t working the water could impact the integrity of the levee and cause a breach, McJunkin said.

Replacing an I-wall to a T-wall on the Lycoming Creek side of the levee is estimated at $2.6 million. Cross pipes that shuttle water through the levee will cost $4.8 million to repair/replace and general maintenance is estimated at $5 million.

Such maintenance includes pump assessments (a pump at McClure’s Run was not operating when Corps officials tested it), stabilizing the retaining walls around pump stations, ladder and fall protection deficiencies identified and vegetation control and mowing. Cost estimates in 2023 are $15.8 million, according to estimates provided by Chelsea Myers, city planner.

The best news, McJunkin said, is there is a small area that does not meet the freeboard (level of the water to the top of the levee that must be raised 3 feet due to new storm regulations).

“We are working toward the same end goal,” Motlagh said.


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