The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Northumberland County

January 27, 2014

Meeting tonight on stemming Liberty Hollow flooding

LEWISBURG — NORTHUMBERLAND — Heavy, torrential-like rain is the worst enemy of more than 250 homeowners in the Liberty Hollow watershed area of Northumberland borough.

That’s when the creek that runs through Susquehanna Road, Wild Cherry Lane and Elliott Drive is breached, causing a runoff that has the potential to cause significant water damage and erosion in the area.

“The runoff has been a problem for a number of years,” borough secretary Jan Bowman said. “The pool facility at Liberty Splashland, at the bottom of the hill, was even flooded by the runoff twice in the past eight years.”

How bad was it?

In 2011, when Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc in the Valley, nowhere was the flooding worse than at Liberty Hollow Run, resident Greg Carl said.

Carl, who managed Liberty Splashland for 14 years and also served as a borough councilman, recalled how bad it was.

“The creek was breached,” he said. “Not surprising because the creek banks are only about a foot high. This happened in September, and by then, the Splashland season was over, so we had already emptied the pool completely. The drain, however, was opened. But the rain over those few days was so heavy that Splashland was completely overrun and the water filled up that 250,000-gallon pool, even with the drain open. Mud and sediment was everywhere. It was a mess. We didn’t have physical damage, but the cleanup process was tedious and difficult.”

Carl remembered two other instances — he couldn’t recall the years —  when torrential rains caused flooding and brought muddy waters into the pool area and beyond. “There was mud everywhere, but it didn’t cost the borough any money because the cleanup was done by volunteers.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s estimate of damage to homeowners in the Liberty Hollow watershed area during the 2011 flood was more than $42,000.

“Some residents had water in their basements,” Bowman said. “However, we don’t know the final financial damage. Fixing the storm water pipes does not fix the problem; our goal is to decrease the runoff.  In the end, it’s not so much about affecting the homes in the borough. We are trying to reduce the runoff coming through the hollow and collapsing storm drains.”

To that end, the borough hired the architectural engineering firm of Hazen and Sawyer, of State College, to find a solution. Hazen and Sawyer is the same firm managing construction of a $13.8 million sewer plant on Water Street.

Last October, engineers from Hazen and Sawyer held a community outreach meeting at which they listened to concerns of Liberty Hollow area residents and stakeholders. Their mission: to do a study that would identify alternatives to mitigate issues surrounding the runoff.

One of those alternatives that seemed to have the most traction involved installing a green infrastructure in the upper parts of the hollow to minimize and delay water flows through the area. A retention garden or gardens could be involved at the top of the hollow and possibly at other locations.

This is not to say that future green infrastructure projects in the lower portion of the watershed will not benefit Liberty Hollow and its mother watershed, Hazen and Sawyer engineers noted.

The firm’s final analysis of the stormwater issues is complete, and the firm has developed conceptual designs of the practices that it believes will best suit the watershed.

Brian L. Book, a senior associate with Hazen and Sawyer, will present the findings during a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. today in the Second Street Community Center, 175 Orange St.

Borough officials are urging property owners to attend the meeting to hear the solutions and voice their opinions.

A discussion will take place regarding priority projects and funding possibilities.

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