Reader blames Army Corps for lack of levee system in West Pittston

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Dear Editor:

High water filling basements, mandatory evacuation and, once again, those foolish West Pittston homeowners living near the river are crying wolf for a levee. Some of the area’s “finest” have anonymously flooded (pun intended) social media with comments such as: “Anyone with common sense wouldn’t buy a house right next to the river,”…and…”Why should we pay with our tax dollars for their life choices?”…or…one of my personal favorites, “The people on the Susquehanna didn’t want to lose their view.”

If the truth be told, there is no way to logically argue with these people and their preconceived, misinformed, canned notions. However for those of you who just might be thinking for a moment that they might be making some sense, perhaps you can be persuaded to the contrary. The arguments below have been made here before many times, (just Google, Russin, levee, West Pittston…if you want to get glassy eyed), but in light of recent developments and WNEP’s latest report, “Will West Pittston Ever Get A Levee?” maybe it’s time to review some of the facts.

West Pittston is part of the Wyoming Valley. West Pittston wants to be part of the Wyoming Valley Levee System. Tax dollars from West Pittston residents have already been paid to build that levee system for all our neighbors…both upstream and downstream. That levee system protects all our neighbors whether they live one foot from the river or five miles… whether they have a view or no view.

Sounds logical, right? Then give them their darn levee.But wait! Before that can occur, the Army Corps has to do yet another feasibility study. Done. Completed last year.

As WNEP points out in its Jan. 25 news report, the Army Corps concluded:

“There are not sufficient benefits to warrant federal interest in the continuation of a feasibility study. The Corps of Engineers recommends that the West Pittston Flood Management Study be terminated,”

“Not sufficient benefits” means that the Corps did a benefit to cost analysis (BCA) and West Pittston flunked the test. In other words, it would cost roughly $50 million to make a levee, but $50 million would not be lost in future flood damages.

All that is arguable, of course, and has been argued by WP. But as we all know, subjected to political pressure, numbers can change. However, it’s a moot point at this juncture. The Army Corps has dealt the cards and it holds all the aces. The outcome was predictable.

WP never asked for or wanted a new BCA, in fact they fought against it, because if you take each town protected by the Wyoming Valley Levee starting with the upstream Exeter segment, continuing downstream through Wyoming, Forty Fort , Kingston….. etc. down to and including Plymouth, none…NOT ONE…ever had to have a separate BCA for levee protection, and arguably would not have individually passed a 1-1 BCA, either.

This is the crux of WP’s argument regarding the injustice of it all. The Army Corps originally considered WP as part of the WV Levee System. WP was kicked out for political reasons. Borough residents NEVER voted to opt out of levee protection! The original levee plans for the WP segment have existed since the 80s and are easily accessible to everyone. As part of that system, WP (obviously a part of WV), was safely ensconced as part of the COLLECTIVE 1-1 BCA enjoyed together with the rest of the WV levee towns.

To prove this point, here is an additional earlier quote from the same Army Corps:

“All the various components of local flood protection in the Wyoming Valley function as a single, integrated hydraulic system. Economically and socially, the Wyoming Valley also exists as a system and individual parts cannot be analyzed separately because of the complex interactions. In view of these close economic and social ties among the protected communities of the Wyoming Valley, plan formulation and evaluation activities proceeded as if the existing projects were one system” 1981 GDM Page B-16

We have spent years arguing this very point to deaf ears, leaving no stone unturned, and confronting ALL the relevant powers that be…and each and every one of those relevant powers could solve the problem if they were willing to spend some of their own political capital. None have…and you may want to consider this with elections approaching. Each year that passes without protection and every high water event emphasizes the injustice and unfairness of it all.

Oh…and by the way…the Army Corps also concluded in its Jan. 2017 levee denial that:

“The Borough of West Pittston will continue to suffer economic losses, loss of employment base and face potential LOSS OF LIFE due to recurring flood damages from the Susquehanna River.”

“Well West Pittston, keep dodging. Just sayin…..”

Bob Russin

West Pittston

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