• Community protection programs would face steep cuts under Senate budget proposal
HARRISBURG, PA, May 26, 2009 -- Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell announced that eight contracts and 22 grants have been awarded for 47 flood protection and stream improvement projects in 21 counties. An additional four projects in two counties are currently in the grant execution process and will be awarded soon.
Total value for the 51 projects is more than $2.5 million but Governor Rendell warned that funding for these projects in the future will be jeopardized under spending cuts proposed in the state Senate version of the 2009-2010 budget.
"Through the flood protection and stream improvement programs, we have helped local governments to maintain these vital structures," Governor Rendell said. "It would create a financial hardship for these communities if the state were to dramatically reduce this support during these difficult economic times."
The Department of Environmental Protection oversees Pennsylvania's flood protection and stream improvement programs and is already facing $19 million in spending reductions under Governor Rendell's proposed 2009-2010 budget. An alternative budget recently presented by the state Senate would cut $50 million from the department including nearly $1.4 million from the flood protection program.
Among the programs that will be jeopardized under the Senate's proposed cuts:
• Flood Protection Grants -- awarded annually to communities for non-routine maintenance, project improvements and specialized equipment. DEP awarded $1.1 million to 28 locally-operated projects in 21 counties in March, 2009. This amount would be cut in half under the Senate's proposal;
• Stream Improvement Program -- protects homes and businesses threatened by streambank erosion, restores degraded stream channels and reduces future flooding. Funding for this program would be cut in half under the Senate's proposal;
• Rehabilitation and Improvement to Existing Protection Projects -- funds design and construction of rehabilitation, non-routine maintenance and major improvements to existing locally-operated projects. Proposed Senate reductions would delay for several years needed installations of emergency closures to seal openings in existing levees and floodwalls;
• Levee Certification -- assistance to local municipalities to certify flood protection of state-built levee systems. If levees are not certified, new FEMA flood insurance maps will designate the areas behind the levee and floodwall as being flood-prone, which will significantly increase the cost of flood insurance for residents, particularly for residents purchasing homes with government-backed loans; and
• Local Cost Share for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program -- assists communities with the 25 percent local cost share required for federal emergency stream projects following major flood events.
"Drastic cuts to Pennsylvania's flood protection and stream improvements will not provide long-term savings to taxpayer and will instead just pass these costs onto municipal governments that are already struggling to provide necessary services," Governor Rendell said. "We can not balance our state budget by simply shifting our responsibilities to local government, and we should not abandon our commitment to respond quickly to emergency flood situations and to assist with long-term maintenance and repairs to flood protection projects."
DEP oversees Pennsylvania's flood protection program and investigates flooding problems to determine the feasibility of various solutions ranging from upstream stormwater control to construction of significant flood control structures. Flood control projects can include stormwater detention facilities, concrete channels and floodwalls, earthen levees, stream channel improvements or a combination of these projects. The department conducts yearly inspections, provides technical assistance to local municipal sponsors, and assists local municipalities with design work and cost sharing on federally built projects.
>> More information on Pennsylvania's Flood Protection Program [keyword: Flood Protection]
>> See the list of Flood Protection contracts and Stream Improvement grants awarded by the Department of Environmental Protection