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DEP touts Restore Pa. in Mansfield

DEREK DANNEKER/Sun-Gazette

MANSFIELD — Officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection toured a frequently-flooded and outdated channel Monday, while touting current legislation aimed at routing infrastructure money from a new severance tax.

Restore Pennsylvania would bring part of the total $4.5 billion desired to repair stormwater structures. In past years, that kind of infrastructure has only been given $500,000 in state funding, said DEP officials.

The now-small stream, which runs between the Mansfield University baseball field on Clinton Street and main campus, floods overtop of an out-dated 1970s archway once every five to seven years — inundating many homes below, said Jimmiejoe Carl, the borough engineer.

“We worked out a couple ideas,” said Carl. “We’ve been talking with DEP about some possible ways that this is permitted. But, essentially, part of it is to establish a floodplain.”

The total cost would be over $2 million, an amount which Steve McCloskey, Mansfield Borough council member, said it doesn’t have.

“We’re putting in the resources now that we can afford to do, but we will no longer be able to do that when it comes to the huge infrastructure aspects of that,” he said. “This was created by the federal government along with the state government. We can’t absorb those costs.”

As a part of a promise to Mansfield residents, the council members said they have been reaching out to anyone they can.

Marcus Kohl, North-Central regional director of DEP, said the situation is “eerily similar” to many other rural areas of Pennsylvania.

The job of DEP is to help localities maneuver through the regulatory process, help develop solutions, and “now we have the potential to point out funding sources,” he said.

“As the department’s mission states, our primary focus is protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvania residents, so this would rise right to the top as far as our priority,” he added.

Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t have a severance tax, much like the gas impact fee, a severance tax would bring a “substantial” amount of money for projects such as Mansfield’s flooding channel.

“$4.5 Billion goes a long way. That’s not just for flooding, that’s for a lot of different projects, but nonetheless, it’s a lot,” he said.

Much like with impact fee funding, money from Restore Pennsylvania could be used as a local match to many grants.

It’s unsure whether the state funding will come through an existing program or a new program, or if it will come at all, depending on legislative and citizen support.

In the end, Restore Pennsylvania is one possible answer to the infrastructural funding needs of rural areas, said Kohl.

“We hear the good news — there seems to be a good bit of support,” he said. “What we’ve never had anyone say is there isn’t a problem that needs a solution.”

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