Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District claims it prevented $1 billion-plus in flood damage | TribLIVE.com
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Mary Ann Thomas

With record-breaking rain in 2018, the Army Corps of Engineers claimed its dams, reservoirs and other projects prevented $1.1 billion in flood damage in Upper Ohio River Basin.

The $1.1 billion in damage prevented substantially exceeded the Pittsburgh District’s 10-year average of $310.3 million a year, according to data released Friday.

The information was presented to Congress this week.

The Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District covers 26,000 square miles and includes parts of Western Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia, eastern Ohio, western Maryland and southwestern New York. The district oversees 328 miles of navigable waterways with 16 flood management reservoirs and 42 flood protection projects.

Berlin Lake in Ohio and the Conemaugh River Lake Reservoir near Saltsburg were the most productive facilities last year, preventing $284 million and nearly $218 million, respectively, in flood damages by reducing the crest of local rivers.

“When a storm enters the basin, the district’s 16 dams and reservoirs impound runoff and precipitation to cut the downstream flood crest on rivers and then release the stored water in a controlled manner after the crest has passed to make space for the next storm’s runoff,” said Jeff Hawk, spokesman for the Corps’ Pittsburgh District.

Pittsburgh had a wetter than average year during 2018 with 54.7 inches of precipitation compared to the average of 38.2 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The most significant flood event occurred in September when the remnants of two tropical storms — Gordon and Florence — entered the region.

Total flood damages prevented by the district’s 16 reservoirs during the September rains were estimated at more than $340 million. Conemaugh, Loyalhanna and Youghiogheny River lakes contributed 67 percent of these benefits, according to the Corps.

Total flood damage reduction for the rains from Gordon and Florence within the Pittsburgh District was $128.4 million in Pennsylvania, $96.8 million in Ohio, $134.4 million in West Virginia, $13,000 in New York, and $396,000 in Maryland.

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