Supervisors, farmers discuss flooding issues with DEP

Farmers who are tired of watching their topsoil settle in the bottom of creek beds and township supervisors looking for answers on how to combat flooding and pay for the results of its devastation were among the attendees at the Department of Environmental Protection’s Open House Monday night at Lycoming College.

A group of township supervisors from Columbia County came seeking answers to flooding issues.

“We had a lot of water damage. We need to clean some of these streams up. There’s a lot of trees, a lot of debris. We all got hit pretty hard in August,” said Jerry Beishline, one of the supervisors.

One reason the agency decided to hold the open house was to connect with people in the community and maybe dispel some misconceptions about working with its staff, according to Marcus Kohl, regional director of DEP.

Kohl highlighted a publication his agency produced about a year ago explaining stream maintenance.

“We put together a document that explains in as simple terms as we possibly could do, all the things that can be done,” he said, explaining that in the booklet green light means, “without a whole lot of DEP intervention, yellow light, some things that you should call us about, and red light some things that aren’t necessarily stopped, but are ‘stop and work with us.'”

“From the department’s perspective we understand that after you’ve been through a flood, the devastation is real. Our staff are out there every day hearing from the folks who have been through that. They’re sitting there trying to both make sure that we understand what the needs are and to address those needs in the most reasonable way possible,” he said.

During last year’s floods, he noted that his department issued several hundred emergency permits to help people get their lives back on track.

“In doing so, the department is

making sure that we’re not saying you can’t do anything. One of the things we hear often times is ‘DEP you own the streams, you have to do this work,'” he said.

He stressed that DEP does not own the streams, but it is the agency’s job to make sure the work done in the streams is done responsibly. Twig debris plugging up culverts is another frequent complaint Kohl said his agency hears.

“One of the things we’d like to (do is) dispel the myth if you can get it out of there without taking equipment into the stream, get it out of there. You don’t need any approval from DEP. Remove that wood debris. Maintain your culverts. These are things that can be done, that should be done,” he added.

One solution for funding efforts to prevent flooding Kohl mentioned is Gov. Tom Wolf’s RESTORE Pennsylvania initiative, presented by the governor earlier this year.

Agencies represented at the open house in addition to DEP were: PA Fish and Boat Commission; the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy; Lycoming College Clean Water Institute; Lycoming County Conservation District; Lycoming County Hazard Mitigation Program; PEMA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service from the US Department of Agriculture.