Source: Aimee DilgerLeeward construction is working to build a flood wall in Duryea.
DURYEA — Members of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provided an update on the Duryea Flood Control project, which is making progress.
The project includes construction of an approximately 1,000 foot steel sheet pile flood wall from the existing levee at Stephenson Street to the downstream end of Holy Rosary Cemetery and will close a gap in the existing flood protection project, constructed in 1967.
“There’s an upstream levee and a downstream levee,” said Johnathan Conville, DEP engineer. “When they built the original project, this area was considered higher ground. It’s still lower than the existing levee, so that’s the point of the project now, to fill in that gap.”
Associated work also includes a small section of levee excavation and installation of two drainage structures with gates that will pour water from the streets into the Lackawanna River and also have gates that will prevent water from backing up the drains.
“Both of the drainage structures will have sluice gates on them,” said Conville. “They’re secondary control measures that will allow the pipes to be closed in the case of water flowing back through the pipe from a flood event.”
The $1,569,570 project is being funded by Commonwealth Capitol Budget and is being done by Leeward Construction.
It is slated for completion by the end of June.
The reason for the Duryea Flood Control project is that, during the flood of 2011, water from the Susquehanna River drained into the Lackawanna River, causing it to crest and spill out through Holy Rosary Cemetery.
According to a 2012 Times Leader report, over 330 homes in the borough were affected — 108 with basement damage and 192 with first-floor flooding.
Colleen Connolly, spokesperson for DEP, said funds were originally researched for the project back in 2004 but receiving permission from the property owners to allow workers to walk through their properties along the river kept the project on hold.
“The big stopping point was property acquisition which seemed to fall by the wayside,” she said. “Although we kept at the property acquisitions, it didn’t seem to come as fast as we would’ve liked. The flooding of 2011, I guess, served kind of as a catalyst to move this along. Duryea Borough Council worked with us, but it was the flooding of 2011 that really pushed us to get to this point.”
The borough council members completed a land acquisition in April 2015 and received a legal clearance from the Department of General Services (DGS) to send out construction bids.
By the end of November, contracts were signed between Leeward Construction and the council members and the project began in March.
Borough manager Carolyn Santee said the borough is not paying for the project and, although it has been met with differing responses from community residents, believes it will be beneficial to everyone in the end.
“I just think it’s a great project,” she said. “I’m glad to see it finally happening.”
Connolly believes the new levee will protect the borough from any future flood damage, and hopes it never has to be tested.
“We’re not throwing the word progress around; we’re showing what it is,” she said. “To see if it really works, unfortunately, we’d have to have a storm or river rising situation to put it to the test. Would we want to see something like that? No. We want to avoid something like 2011, but it will show how sturdy the levee system is.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher