Susquehanna River flood inundation maps to be updated

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - | October 8th, 2015 5:02 pm

The government is updating maps showing which properties likely will flood when the Susquehanna River rises to various stages, officials recently announced.

Emergency responders rely on inundation maps for evacuations, road closures and other flood preparations.

Luzerne County currently relies on Wyoming Valley Flood Warning System maps developed in 2000 and have become out of date based on a new water analysis completed after record Susquehanna flooding in 2011, officials say.

This federal government analysis examined the amount of water draining into the Wyoming Valley and where it goes once it gets here. It concluded that development in the northern watershed is sending more runoff into the local stretch of the Susquehanna. Meanwhile, changes to the river channel — sediment, tree growth, bridges — have reduced how much water is contained within the Susquehanna during peak flow periods.

Updated maps will arm emergency workers and elected officials with more accurate projections, said Christopher Belleman, executive director of the county’s flood protection authority, which oversees the Wyoming Valley levee.

The project also includes plans to add monetary damage estimates at various flooding stages and make the maps available to the general public.

“It’s going to be such an important tool for public safety,” Belleman said. “Completion of this initiative is really essential in getting citizens out of harm’s way during emergency high water events on the Susquehanna.”

The project will cost around $350,000 and cover the 100-mile Susquehanna stretch from Sunbury to the northern Luzerne County border in Exeter Township.

The following entities will provide funding or complete work valued at these amounts:

• Federal Emergency Management Agency: $230,000

• National Weather Service: $45,000

• Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency: $3,000

• Susquehanna River Basin Commission: $45,000

• Counties: $26,000

The five participating counties — Columbia, Luzerne, Montour Northumberland and Snyder — must contribute a combined $16,000 and in-kind work valued at $10,000, Belleman said.

The authority, not the county’s general fund operation budget, will contribute Luzerne County’s $3,200 share, he said.

The project is estimated for completion in spring 2017.

Project will be done by spring 2017

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.