Frustrations Rise Over Much-Delayed Flood Protection Project

JERMYN -- It was a heated council meeting in one community in Lackawanna County over a much-delayed project to install flood protection in a creek.

Rushbrook Creek flooded out in 2003 and 14 years later, nothing has been done to make it safer.

For several years, chain link fencing blocked off the county-owned bridge on Lincoln Avenue in Jermyn. No vehicles are allowed on it as holes have opened on the structure.

Jermyn Borough Council member Dan Markey says the county sees no point in fixing it since there's a flood protection project being planned for Rushbrook Creek below it.

“Knowing that there's an oncoming creek project that needs to be done because it's probably seen as wasteful taxpayer money,” said Markey.

And it was the flood protection project that had the Jermyn council meeting packed with residents who were here to get an update as to when that work may begin.

Rushbrook creek flooded out in 2003, causing more than $1 million in damage and 14 years later, nothing has been done.

The Department of Environmental Protection is heading up the project and delivered news no one wanted to hear.

“When are we going to break soil here?” asked Mark Kilmer.

“Break soil?” said Andrew Malene with DEP. “Maybe 2019.”

“That's the burning question,” responded Kilmer as residents let out loud groans.

“Other places in the area, who dealt with what we dealt during this flood, who have their projects complete, how they did do it?” demanded Chastity Black. “Because otherwise you can stand in my kitchen when the thaw comes and you can feel the boulders shaking my house.”

DEP needs to get permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward.

To get those, DEP needs permission from those living along the creek that work can be done on their property and that could take a year or longer.

But before that, DEP needs a permit from Army Corps proving Rushbrook Creek's water is safe when it runs into the Lackawanna River.

Council member John Mark says it has been extremely difficult getting permits from the Army Corps.

“We still can't get the permit from Army Corps of Engineers!” said Mark. “That's where the biggest holdup is, once we get that, we can move on with easements.”

DEP is hoping to have that water study report submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers by November 1.

Then the process of getting permission from homeowners can begin.