State Lawmakers Push For More Local Authority to Address Creek, Stream Flooding

App users, tap here to watch video report.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Flooding of creeks and streams is a rising concern not only in the northern tier, but throughout all of Pennsylvania. 

Northern tier and central Pennsylvania lawmakers are pushing legislation with a common theme: “meaningful maintenance.”

Representatives Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) and Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/ Susquehanna) say the response from their communities has highlighted the impact of flooding, and the roadblocks that landowners and local governments sometimes face when trying to improve waterway infrastructure. One roadblock is waiting for permits.

“One of the biggest issues is trying to get the permit and getting it in a timely manner,” said Owlett. “We have to do something about it. Just continuing to pretend that the path that we’re on is going to work, is not reality.”

Pickett and Owlett say the eight-bill package is an effort to improve properties and lives. The various bills seek to give local governments more authority when addressing waterway improvements.

“I get phone calls all the time from folks who are saying, ‘If I could just, if I could just do this, or I could just do that’,” said Pickett.

Both Pickett and Owlett have heard the frustration from their respective districts for years, especially from people who know how to fix the issue but can’t, due to state and regulatory barriers. They say the often-lengthy permit process and reliance on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) often create maintenance delays, which sometimes means more flood damage.

“But we have got to look for ways to bring about some sort of meaningful change for our farmers, for our residential communities, for our townships that have structures, and our counties that have structures, that they want to protect,” said Owlett. “But they have not been able to do that because of the regulations that are in place. That’s the stuff that needs to change, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he added.

Owlett is the sponsor of House Bill 2404 which would allow local government organizations to apply for a permit for continuing maintenance for a period of at least ten years for the streams within their jurisdiction. The permit would grant an affirmative duty to the local government entity to properly maintain the streams and would not require the local government to get pre-approval for maintenance projects.

Pickett is the sponsor of House Bill 2405, which would create a program that allows counties to opt in to address hazards within their streams by allowing for emergency maintenance permits in consultation with their county conservation district. Pickett says the project is modeled after a pilot project that has proven to be successful in Bradford County.

“Just to remove some of these barriers, some of these things that stop people from being able to go forth when they’re looking at this damage on their very own property or within their own municipality. That’s the goal here,” said Pickett.

She adds that more local authority will lead to better prevention and mitigation efforts.

“This is saying let’s not let it happen in the first place when we can see areas where it’s going to happen, let’s do things that will prevent that,” said Pickett.

Owlett says local officials and landowners know what’s needed for the community or their land better than anyone.

“They know these creeks, they know these rivers. They know what needs to be done,” said Owlett.

Both he and Pickett say local authority is critical for waterway infrastructure and that each bill in the package plays an equally important role.

“I’m really hopeful that if we can pass this package of bills and put them in place, that it is going to make a difference,” said Pickett.

The package of legislation will likely be introduced sometime this spring.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.