Repairs to the portable Market Street Bridge flood gates that leaked during record flooding in 2011 will be tested the weekend of Sept. 27, county officials learned this week.
Water pressure blew out sections of the gates’ rubber gasket seals on both the Kingston and Wilkes-Barre sides when the Susquehanna River rose to a record height in September 2011.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the purchase of new gaskets that are expected to provide a more watertight seal when the river rises above flood stage again. The gaskets are placed between the roadway and gate panels.
The Army Corps also is modifying guide plates that hold the gate panels in place, county Operational Services Division Head Christopher Belleman told County Council in an email this week.
The guide plates were too long, causing the bottom panels to sit up to 3 inches off the ground in 2011, Belleman said.
“Thus, there was no compaction actually occurring on the gasket material due to the weight of the panels,” Belleman said. “This is why the gasket material was blown out in several locations during the event.”
The test installation will ensure the panels properly rest on the roadway, weighing down the gaskets, he said.
“We don’t want to wait for another flood event to find out about issues with the closure structures,” Belleman said.
The Army Corps chose the solution because the agency is overseeing and funding an estimated $2 million to $3 million in post-flood damage repair to the Wyoming Valley Levee and its supporting components.
At least one eastbound and westbound traffic lane will remain open to bridge motorists during the testing, Belleman said.
The Army Corps has hired Tri-State Design/KC Construction Co. of Elkins Park to complete the flood gate repairs.
The county will keep the old gaskets until the Army Corps completes its testing and inspection of the new ones, Belleman said. He has stressed the gates held up during the record flood, even though water leaking through them “looked very dramatic.”
Road crews in Kingston and Wilkes-Barre had to truck in and dump tons of rock against the closure panels during the height of the 2011 flood because the panels vibrated after the gaskets blew.