North Huntingdon residents living along Brush Creek near the Irwin border are not optimistic that a tour of the creek by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will lead to any solution to their flooding problems.
“I don’t think they are going to do anything,” said Janet Seman, whose Westmoreland Avenue home off Route 993 was deluged by about 4 feet of water in the basement as a result of the July 11 storm that drenched the region.
Even if a proposal is made to solve the flooding, Seman said there is the problem of finding money to pay for it.
The North Huntingdon commissioners on Aug. 21 agreed to ask the Corps of Engineers to the tour section of Brush Creek and Long’s Run behind Roth Drive — sections that flooded homes and damaged property this summer.
Township manager Jeff Silka told the commissioners during an Aug. 15 meeting that if the Corps makes the visit, it will be to gather information that may result in options to solve the flooding. Then, it becomes a matter of conducting a cost-benefit analysis of the alternatives and what may be feasible.
“They’re not going to do any work,” if the Corps does tour the creeks, Silka said.
The recommendations or potential actions the Corps of Engineers takes is site specific, which is why a site visit is often needed to assess the problem, the Corps said in a statement. The solutions could range from a flood plain management plan, stormwater management recommendations to a larger structural or non-structural flood mitigation project.
The Corps of Engineers has money for technical assistance, if problems are identified, but money for larger efforts that lead to construction of a flood mitigation project are authorized under the continuing authorities program. Those local projects compete for funding at the national level, the spokesman said.
Seman’s Westmoreland Avenue neighbor, Terry Matthias, is not expecting any resolution soon.
“We’re getting slammed here all the time,” said Matthias, who had 3.5 feet of water in his basement last month.
The neighborhood gets flooded from the creek rising above its banks and from water backing up through the storm sewers, according to Matthias, who has lived in his home for 22 years. He believes the creekbed is narrower than in past years, which increases the potential for flooding.
“How many times do you have to replace your hot water heater,” Ruth Matthias said.
No easy solutions
With the need to develop plans and design measures to reduce, there is no easy solution to their flooding, said James Pillsbury, hydraulic engineer for the Westmoreland Conservation District.
“These take many years,” Pillsbury said.
It also may require taking people’s properties that lie within the flood zones. That is a costly, and often unpopular action because people don’t want to lose their homes, Pillsbury said.
While people look to dredging for a temporary solution, Pillsbury said the state Department of Environmental Protection views that “as a poor solution.” Dredging can destabilize the banks, which leads to more problems, he said.
Complicating matters is that both creeks flow through multiple jurisdictions and have large watersheds that have been impacted by development.
Brush Creek runs through or along several central Westmoreland municipalities — Hempfield, Jeannette, Penn Borough and Penn Township — before reaching North Huntingdon. The creek flows into Turtle Creek at Trafford.
Long’s Run flows from North Huntingdon into White Oak and McKeesport before emptying into the Youghiogheny River.
Showing frustration over being flooded multiple times, Matthais said, “nobody wants to help us.”