Limited budget may delay repair of eroded Latrobe stream bank
An area of rip rap along a section of the Loyalhanna Creek in Latrobe is crumbling into the water, but a lack of money could keep city officials from addressing the problem this year.
Following a heavy rainstorm June 20 that caused flash flooding, city crews discovered portions of the stone and concrete embankment were eroding and breaking away in an area bordering Mary Street, near where the Unity Run culvert empties into the creek, according to Michael Gray, public works director.
The embankment is part of a federal flood protection area the city monitors under an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We’re responsible for identifying and making sure the federal flood protection project is intact, it’s working and there’s no issues,” Gray said. “After every major rain event, I go to different locations to check what the erosion is like. I noticed large portions of the bank were dislodged into the creek.”
In response to the city’s request for assistance, Gray said, the Army Corps has agreed to help in repairing the embankment.
But the city’s share of the project cost would be $135,270, which isn’t provided for in the 2019 budget. City Manager Wayne Jones suggested including the expenditure in Latrobe’s 2020 budget.
“It would have to wait until next year to go through, unless (city officials) take it out of a reserve fund,” Gray said.
According to Gray, the eroded area shouldn’t require immediate attention and is far enough away that it won’t impact recently cleared land along Mary Street, where the nonprofit Homes Build Hope organization is planning to build 18 affordable housing units.
He acknowledged that maintaining the embankment is an ongoing battle against the force of water flowing down the creek.
“If you don’t act, it’s going to continue to erode,” Gray said. “Well into the future, could you have issues? Absolutely.”
Gray said he hopes to present council more details about the proposed project at its March meeting, including what timeline the Army Corps may be planning and what estimated cost the city could face if it pursues reconstruction of the embankment without Army Corps funding.
According to Gray, the Army Corps funding would help repair only the extent of the erosion that can be attributed to the rainstorm.
A similar but separate project expected to proceed this year is stabilizing an eroding Loyalhanna shore farther upstream — at the city’s refuse and recycling transfer station, between Mission Road and Route 982.
That project is being funded in large part by a $57,513 grant from the state Growing Greener program, administered by the Westmoreland Conservation District. Gray said the city hopes to meet a required local funding match by providing in-kind services, such as clearing away vegetation or hauling away debris.
That erosion problem also became apparent after the June 20 storm.
“The soil just kind of let loose into the creek,” taking with it a tree and various discarded material that had accumulated at the site over the years, Gray said.
“There’s debris, glass, bricks, everything in there,” he said. “It just took the whole bank and took it right into the creek.”
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .