City receives $1M grant toward massive levee project

The city is the recipient of a $1 million state grant to go toward the replacement of several relief wells as part of the levee recertification, a state senator said.

The grant was announced Wednesday by Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, who secured the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project grant.

The wells stabilize the levee over the longterm by containing water, Yaw said.

The levee repairs are part of a larger rehabilitation project that also will enhance and raise the levee wall to bring the levee into compliance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said.

“It is critical that we take the needed steps to prevent future flood damage and ensure our local governments receive vital funding for infrastructure repairs and improvements,” Yaw said.

The grant will go toward rehabilitating the existing levee protecting Williamsport, South Williamsport and portions of Old Lycoming and Loyalsock townships.”

According to local estimates, the levee protects approximately $2 billion in real estate in the region. Without FEMA certification and compliance, residents and businesses protected by the levee would need to purchase flood insurance.

“A few more funding hurdles need to be jumped to complete the overall project,” Yaw added. “This grant will certainly give it a needed boost.”

The levee repairs are a top priority from a public safety and economic development standpoint, said Fran McJunkin, deputy director of the county Planning Department.

Besides replacing the wells, it sets the project up so funds can be leveraged to protect the city and portions of South Williamsport, Old Lycoming and Loyalsock townships for the next 60 years, she said.

The grants are administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.

“This is extremely important toward our phase approach toward meeting our end of improvements and upgrades to the levee,” said William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director.