Last updated: October 15. 2013 11:19PM - 2061 Views
By - jandes@timesleader.com

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Federal officials are satisfied with repairs and modifications to portable Market Street Bridge flood gates that leaked during record flooding in 2011, engineer Christopher Belleman said during Tuesday’s Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority meeting.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reached the conclusion after recent testing, said Belleman, the authority’s executive director.

Water pressure blew out sections of the gates’ rubber gasket seals on both the Kingston and Wilkes-Barre sides when the Susquehanna River flooded in September 2011, causing the panels to leak and vibrate.

The Army Corps determined guide plates that hold the gate panels in place were too long, causing the bottom panels to sit inches off the ground instead of resting on the gasket seals to hold them in place.

New gaskets designed to provide a more watertight seal were purchased, and the guide plates were modified to eliminate the gap where the panels meet the roadway.

Authority Chairman Stephen A. Urban said the federal government has invested more than $2 million repairing 2011 flood damage to the 15-mile Wyoming Valley Levee and its supporting components, which protect tens of thousands of county residents.

“That’s money that the local governing body didn’t have to pay,” Urban said.

Belleman told the authority these repairs are wrapping up.

A program designed to help areas not protected by the levee also may be reactivated, authority officials said.

This flood-mitigation program was set up around 2000 to demolish and flood-proof properties along the Susquehanna and fund other projects to reduce flooding.

About 15 properties in Shickshinny, Plymouth Township and Jenkins Township were bought out through the program, but there has been little activity in recent years because the federal government did not provide the remaining $15 million earmarked for the program.

Belleman said he was informed the program will receive $1 million in funding in 2014 and up to $5 million the following year. He stressed some of this funding must be shared with four other Susquehanna River counties that also participate in the mitigation program — Columbia, Montour, Northumberland and Snyder.

Roughly 300 Luzerne County properties were on the waiting list for buyouts or elevation, and about the same number were requested in the four other counties combined, officials have said.

Urban said the request list must be revised because some properties were already torn down using other disaster-related funding. Because a significant number of completed projects are expected to be removed, the authority will start requesting new applications from property owners not on the initial list about a decade ago, he said.

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