Governor's initiative essential to protecting downstream residents, communities

Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty underscored the need for Pennsylvania to invest in repairing its aging infrastructure during a visit to the Mt. Laurel Dam in Schuylkill County. The secretary said Governor Edward G. Rendell's Rebuilding Pennsylvania initiative would provide new funding to help rehabilitate unsafe, high hazard dams like Mt. Laurel, and that such investments are needed to protect residents, businesses and communities from the loss of life or property...

• DEP secretary says municipal dams like Mt. Laurel eligible for state investment

POTTSVILLE, PA, March 11, 2008 -- Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty underscored the need for Pennsylvania to invest in repairing its aging infrastructure during a visit to the Mt. Laurel Dam in Schuylkill County.

The secretary said Governor Edward G. Rendell's Rebuilding Pennsylvania initiative would provide new funding to help rehabilitate unsafe, high hazard dams like Mt. Laurel, which is owned by the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority, and that such investments are needed to protect residents, businesses and communities located downstream from the loss of life or property.

"From roads and bridges to dams and flood control projects, we have an obligation to ensure our residents are safe," said McGinty. "The Governor's Rebuild Pennsylvania initiative is designed to ensure that municipal dams like this one, as well as state-owned unsafe high-hazard dams, get the funding they need to give residents and businesses downstream some peace of mind."

Should the Mt. Laurel dam fail, approximately 4,500 people would be at risk as there are 500 homes, 50 businesses, one hospital and a school located within the downstream inundation area. The estimated cost to repair the dam is $3.8 million.

McGinty added that rehabilitating Mt. Laurel dam is also important because it supplies the seven surrounding townships, including several businesses and residential neighborhoods with water and recreational opportunities.

"Mt. Laurel is critical to the economic vitality of this area," said the secretary. "Without the dependable public water it supplies, the number of people calling this area home would be limited, and many businesses could not operate."

Dams can be classified as unsafe because of uncontrolled seepage, inadequate spillway capacity, or no upstream closure on outlet conduits.

Through his Rebuilding Pennsylvania initiative, Governor Rendell is calling for $37 million to rehabilitate state-owned, unsafe dams, and another $6.6 million to leverage local dollars in order to repair or breach unsafe publicly owned dams.

Across Pennsylvania, there are 17 state-owned high-hazard dams that have been classified as unsafe by DEP's dam safety program. Additionally, 21 unsafe high-hazard dams are owned by county or local governments. Municipalities, like the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority, may apply to PennVEST for grants up to 30 percent of the total dam rehabilitation project cost under the Governor's proposal.

"Dam safety regulations and the responsibilities of dam ownership must be taken seriously," said McGinty. "Under the Governor's proposal, we can prevent the devastation caused by dam failures, protect our citizens, and give businesses the confidence they need to continue investing in our communities and creating jobs."

The Governor's proposal also will invest $100 million for flood-control projects over the next three years. Of that total, approximately $91 million would be for capital flood protection projects, while the balance would be available to increase the number of flood-protection grants awarded to municipalities each year, boost support for stream improvement projects, and complete emergency closure work and rehabilitation projects.

For more information on Governor Rendell's Rebuild Pennsylvania initiative, CLICK HERE.

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