Contractors have started repairing a section of the Wyoming Valley levee behind the Forty Fort Cemetery heavily damaged by record flooding in September 2011, officials say.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to spend $2 million to $3 million to repair damaged flood gates, boils and other wounds the 15-mile levee system sustained holding back the Susquehanna River when it swelled to 42.66 feet during Tropical Storm Lee.
The arrival of crews is a welcome sight for uneasy residents protected by the levee, though county and federal officials have stressed the system would function properly during another flood because of temporary fixes.
The section of levee behind the cemetery had to be reinforced with sandbags and several hundred tons of rock and dirt in September to plug boils, or paths under the levee that jeopardize its stability.
Visible cracks also formed in the levee concrete casing at Forty Fort in September.
County Flood Protection Authority Executive Director Jim Brozena said the cracks in the casing will be repaired, and the wall will be recoated with an anti-graffiti material. However, he stressed the casing is more aesthetic because the primary flood control comes from hidden interlocked sheet pile driven at least 30 feet into the ground.
The temporary fill dumped at the site in September is being removed and will be replaced with engineered fill that's properly graded and compacted, Brozena said.
The work is now being done as part of a normal construction project, rather than in emergency mode, Brozena said.
Tri-State Design Construction Company Inc., of Elkins Park, which was hired by the U.S. Army Corps to complete the project, must work in small sections because it would be too risky to rip out all the temporary fill at one time, Brozena said.
The contractor has been at the site a little over a week and will complete the work this winter if weather allows, he said.
Once the work around the cemetery along River Street in Forty Fort is complete, Tri-State will use a similar fill replacement technique on other levee boils that surfaced in Forty Fort, Plymouth, Hanover Township and Kingston in September, he said.
These include boils behind the county recreational complex near the Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort, the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming, The Laurels nursing home in Kingston, the end of Fellows Avenue in Hanover Township and at several Plymouth locations.
Market Street flood closure panels used on the Kingston and Wilkes-Barre sides also will be addressed as part of the repairs, he said. Water pressure blew out sections of gasket seals on the Market Street flood gates in September.
The Army Corps plans to install a new type of seal and make other modifications, Brozena said. He emphasized a procedure is in place to ensure the existing gates provide flood protection if needed before the repairs are completed.
The Army Corps has completed repairs of seepage-controlling relief wells in South Wilkes-Barre, he said.