Imagine logging on to a website the next time the Susquehanna River is expected to climb above flood stage, finding your home or business on a map and easily learning whether flood water will reach it and, if it does, how high the water will rise.
It’s an advantage residents of Harrisburg area river towns soon will have. But unfortunately, money hasn’t been found to provide the same benefit to residents of the Wyoming Valley and surrounding areas.
At a regular meeting on March 21, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission reported on and demonstrated the new interactive flood inundation maps being developed for the city of Harrisburg and nearby communities along the Susquehanna. The maps will be released as Internet products later this spring.
An interagency team, known as the Pennsylvania Silver Jackets, is developing the maps. Pennsylvania Silver Jackets is an innovative program, initiated by the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to bring together local, state, regional and federal agencies to address Pennsylvania’s flood risk management priorities.
“What’s nice about the mapping we’re doing is that it can be accessed by the public online,” said Stacey Underwood, Flood Plain Management Services program manager for the Baltimore District.
Underwood said the National Weather Service and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission have websites that can display the interactive maps.
“So when the NWS predicts a flooding stage, you can look at maps tied to them and see the location and the extent of flooding. They’re very valuable and would be an asset to every community nationwide,” Underwood said.
Luzerne County has flood inundation maps that were developed several years ago, but they are not interactive maps that can be posted online, she said.
Underwood said her department had prepared a proposal for interactive flood inundation maps for the Wyoming Valley area this past fall, but it was not accepted.
“So right now, there is no funding stream. The corps had a limited amount of money nationwide,” Underwood said. “We can possibly try again in the future and will likely do that. … We think it would be a good project in the future if various agencies were willing to work on it together.”
Underwood surmised the Harrisburg project was accepted for funding because it’s for a smaller area, would cost less and wouldn’t need the cooperation of as many officials as the same type project for the Wyoming Valley would require. She said Wyoming Valley project proposal included areas in five counties.
She also said the Army Corps typically funds only Army Corps tasks for a project; there must be other agencies to provide in-kind services to help support the project.
The total cost of the Harrisburg project is $235,000, with the Army Corps contributing $105,000 and other agencies kicking in the remaining $130,000.
The total proposed for the Wyoming Valley map system, which includes Luzerne, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland and Bradford counties, was $300,000. It proposed that the Army Corps contribute $175,000 and other agencies contribute $125,000.
Underwood said there was “no way to predict” when or if a such a project would be funded for the Wyoming Valley area.