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Levee project staying on track despite pandemic

The pandemic may have dramatically changed our work, social and educational lives, but it cannot stand in the way of the forces of nature.

So it’s reassuring to hear that municipal and county officials have kept their focus on the levee project through the past half year while COVID-19 closed and dramatically altered many of our comings and goings.

Overall, the project costs are expected to total $16 million, with the next phase to cost $11 million.

Fortunately for everyone the levee protects — homes, businesses, government facilities — many entities have come together in a collaborative effort to make it happen. These include the city, South Williamsport and Loyalsock and Old Lycoming townships, all of which benefit from the levee’s protection. The county has played a large role as well, and officials across the board have worked to secure funding from state and federal sources.

The state Department of Transportation also may need to get involved with regard to the levee’s location near the High Street bridge over Lycoming Creek.

As city engineer Jon Sander noted, this project requires “a tremendous amount of coordination.”

The levee project is no small undertaking, yet its importance is massive.

We’ve lived through many floods in northcentral Pennsylvania, and we’ve seen the devastation they can leave. Just look at what Tropical Storm Lee did when it ripped up the eastern part of the county without a levee for protection nine years ago this month, causing historic flooding and leaving a path of devastation in its wake.

That was the one that took out the Loyalsockville bridge along Route 973 after Loyalsock Creek rose about 15 feet in just over 12 hours. Loyalsockville received 9.70 inches between Sept. 4 and 8, 2011, with 5.09 inches on Sept. 7 alone, according to the National Weather Service. Loyalsock Creek rose 15 feet in just over 12 hours at the height of the storm. The state Department of Transportation reported $54 million in damages from Lee.

The point is, it is absolutely necessary that we take care of the levee. While the costs of bringing the levee up to Federal Emergency Management Agency standards seem dwarfing, the costs of a major breach certainly stand to be much worse.

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