Etna, Sharpsburg flood study done; reviews are mixed

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

A flooding study by a Washington nonprofit that helps protect and restore rivers lays out ambitious proposals that might be difficult to implement, say officials in Etna and Sharpsburg.

They're taking a cautious view of the report completed last year by American Rivers, which has an office in Edgewood. The nonprofit recently distributed its recommendations to officials for review.

“To help with flooding in Etna, you'd have to move upstream,” said borough Manager Mary Ellen Ramage.

She said the borough played no role in developing the proposals. Among suggestions for Etna, the report says the borough should consider flood prevention ideas when revitalizing the Tippins brownfield and expanding a walking trail.

American Rivers believes the Tippins site could be an especially good area to make significant improvements, said Lisa Hollingsworth-Segedy, associate director for river restoration.

“Anytime you're looking at taking a brownfield and bringing it up to a new use, there's a great opportunity,” Hollingsworth-Segedy said.

She said the report identified two types of flooding — the 100-year storm types similar to that from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and nuisance flooding from heavy rain. It recommends “green” infrastructure and green-space ideas to beautify the communities and help with flood prevention.

Hollingsworth-Segedy remains hopeful the ideas will enable officials to tackle several issues at once.

“They're facing multiple problems,” she said.

Sharpsburg borough Secretary Jan Barbus said she expects officials to discuss the report this summer. Some of the ideas would require a lot of work, she said.

“It's a lot of extreme changes,” Barbus said.

Ramage said by the time flooding reaches the communities it can be too late for mitigation.

“If you want to hold water back, you have to hold it back before the floodplain,” she said.

American Rivers suggested a gateway between Sharpsburg and Etna and “green” parking lots to control stormwater runoff.

The suggestions could be useful for a multi-municipal plan, Ramage said, but American Rivers officials should not assume their ideas will be considered.

Hollingsworth-Segedy said she would next like to look for money to pay for a feasibility study on some of the recommendations.

Barbus said Sharpsburg's budget does not include money for any of the potential projects.

“The overall goal is to find as much assistance that's available ... to get these projects ready for implementation,” Hollingsworth-Segedy said.

Tom McGee is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 1513 or

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