Duryea residents meet with Department of Environmental Protection to discuss flood wall protection

By Nick Wagner - nwagner@timesleader.com | January 29th, 2016 8:06 am

DURYEA — Around 50 residents met with the Department of Environmental Protection Thursday to discuss the start of the flood wall protection project, which is officially set to begin in early February. Pre-construction has already started on the project.

Jonathan Conville, a DEP engineer with the Bureau of Waterways Engineering and Wetlands, gave a presentation on the overview of the project.

Conville said the project will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 9. Funds have already been allocated and established in ACT 131 - the Commonwealth Budget Project of 2002. No federal aid will be issued, DEP said. Depending on weather, the project is expected to be completed on June 20.

The DEP recently announced that Leeward Construction Inc., of Honesdale, will handle the $1.5 million contract. The contract, awarded through a bidding process, calls for the installation of approximately 1,000 feet of sheet pile to close the gap in the existing wall along the Lackawanna River bank.

“There will be no more existing gap in the levee,” Conville said.

In September 2011, Tropical Storm Lee caused heavy flooding damage in the borough, which sits on the border of Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. The storm flooded 339 homes along the Lackawanna River banks.

However, it wasn’t the Lackawanna River that caused the problems in Duryea. The backup from the Susquehanna River pushed the Lackawanna River to flow over its banks, Conville said. The Susquehanna River crested at 42 feet during the storm in 2011.

Two years ago, the borough installed temporary jersey barriers to act as a flood wall. Those barriers will be removed so the steel pilings can be put in place. Residents brought up the question as to what happens if there is a flood between now and the completion of the project.

Conville reminded residents that the jersey barriers that are in place now would not have helped if a storm hit like Tropical Storm Lee because of existing gaps in the barriers. Therefore, the borough is still susceptible to flooding until the wall is finished.

The sheeting will act as a flood wall, according to Conville, Leeward Construction Inc. will also excavate a small section of the levee to install drainage structures with gates. The original levee was built in 1967, but left a 1,000-foot gap between Stephenson Street and the Sacred Heart Cemetery. The new flood wall will take care of the issue, Conville said.

“That is the lowest point,” Conville said. “That was a major part of the flooding.”

The steel pilings will be slightly higher than the existing levee and run at a uniform height across the entire levee system. There will be a 10-feet easement on the land side of the wall.

Questions were raised from the community on several different topics. One serious top of discussion was the possible damage to homes along the river because of the construction. Conville said precautions have been put in the contract insure residents there should not be any damage. He also said the construction company will not use equipment in the river itself.

However, Leeward Construction Inc. is working closely with a company called Vibra-Tech. Vibra-Tech will monitor the vibration from the heavy machinery as the steel pilings will be driven into the ground using seismograph technology. Residents in the flood zone were contacted by Vibra-Tech and the company has already been inspecting houses in case damage would be caused in the future.

The project will have a vibration limit of 0.2 inches per second. The Department of Transportation uses almost twice that for their projects, Conville said.

“We built this into the contract to ensure there won’t be any damage of the vibration,” Conville said. “We don’t expect any damage.”

Duryea resident Pat Murman asks a question during a public meeting with the Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday in Duryea.
http://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_DuryeaFlood1.jpgDuryea resident Pat Murman asks a question during a public meeting with the Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday in Duryea. Nick Wagner | Times Leader

By Nick Wagner


Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick