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Officials tour flood-damaged Elizabeth

| Saturday, July 13, 2013, 1:31 a.m.
ERIC SLAGLE | DAILY NEWS
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, state Rep. Rick Saccone and Elizabeth borough public works director John Grossi discuss options for improving a flood-prone part of the borough.
ERIC SLAGLE | DAILY NEWS
T.J. Fichera of the Army Corps of Engineers discussed options for clearing a debris-clogged section of Fallen Timber Run in Elizabeth while U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, D-Upper St. Clair, listens.

State and federal officials visited a flood-damaged section of Elizabeth on Friday, while residents who live in the affected area around Irwin Street continued their recovery efforts.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, and officials from the Army Corps of Engineers visited flood-damaged areas and reviewed the community's cleanup efforts. But it still remains a question whether the borough will be eligible for federal or state emergency funds.

Saccone said initial estimates put damages at about $200,000, but he believes the price tag for rebuilding the community along Fallen Timber Run could run closer to $500,000.

In addition to rebuilding Irwin Street, which was partially washed away by a small creek that feeds into Fallen Timber Run, the community needs to find a permanent solution to runoff problems in the flood- prone area.

One potential solution the officials discussed is building a retention pond to slow runoff from Elizabeth Township's Oak Hill neighborhood, which is above the flooded area. It is unclear how such a project would be funded.

Saccone said he plans to contact the state Department of Environmental Protection to inquire if it can help pay for flood control measures that would include the clearing of the debris-clogged waterways.

Murphy said the community by itself would not likely qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, which has a damage threshold level of about $17 million, but might qualify for funds once other flood-damaged communities are considered.

Officials all stressed that residents affected by Wednesday's storms should contact their local municipal government to report damages to better improve the region's chance of qualifying for FEMA money.

Elizabeth officials were concerned about what they could do in the short term to reduce flooding.

T.J. Fichera of the Army Corps of Engineers said borough workers could remove logs, tires and other debris that is clogging the streams, provided they do so without using heavy equipment within the stream bed.

That will present a challenge in some hard-to-reach sections of the stream.

Fichera said environmental permits would be required to operate heavy equipment in the stream or clear areas of the stream bed where silt has been deposited.

Elizabeth council president Monica Glowinski said she was encouraged by the state and federal officials' visit but discouraged that there appears to be no immediate funding resources available to address the borough's problems.

Long-term fixes are something the borough would do “if we had a rainy day fund,” Glowinski said. “But we don't have a rainy day fund.”

Glowinski said the estimated cost of the flooding is continuing to rise. Initially, repairs to Irwin Street were expected to be around $25,000. By Friday, the cost estimates had risen to $40,000.

The council president said the borough will look at closing nearby Cemetery Street, which was damaged by the flooding. She said the road, which connects to Elizabeth Township, was already in bad condition and now is worse.

Electricity had been restored to homes in the area by Friday but pump hoses still stretched out of some basements.

Resident Paul Battle told the visiting officials that the situation was bad on Wednesday.

“It was like Ohiopyle,” he said.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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