Residents deserve voice in flood plans

Anyone old enough to recall the devastation wreaked by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 can appreciate flood-control efforts that were undertaken in the aftermath of that wide-scale weather calamity.

Similarly, people who experienced fear and/or destruction from this month’s heavy, persistent rains are likely to be more open to steps deemed necessary to try to prevent future flooding — steps they might have opposed in the past.

Then, some people might be tempted to take matters into their own hands to try to rectify problem conditions that have not been addressed, despite pleas to local, regional or state government officials.

The Johnstown area is no novice to flooding, having been brutalized in 1889, 1936 and 1977, as well as by some lesser water events over the years. Despite having been dubbed “flood free” as a result of flood-control work initiated after 1936, 1977 proved otherwise, including wreaking a toll of lives.

One point to emphasize is that Pennsylvanians need to have an ongoing window for comment regarding proposed legislation dealing with keeping streams clear of debris and obstructions that can worsen the impact of flooding.

Fifty years since Agnes battered places such as Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre, people here need to be watching closely as a package of flooding-related bills travels through the Pennsylvania Legislature, with some lawmakers hoping for quick action.

There is no guarantee yet that state residents will have enough opportunity to express opinions about how the various considerations proceed, but they should have a voice.

Some of what legislators currently are considering includes initiating stream-cleaning efforts where appropriate, allowing local governments to seek a permit for continuing maintenance of streams and allow counties to opt in to address stream hazards through emergency maintenance permits, among other proposals.

Still, besides what is going on in the legislative chambers in Harrisburg, many state residents are cognizant of what is needed to address or lessen flooding dangers close to them. They need to be able to speak about those dangers, as well as certain conditions that have remained off the proverbial radar.

State officials must set aside time to listen, even as they are debating the anti-flooding bills already proposed.


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