Thursday, October 30, 2014

Government Officials Celebrate Success Of Bucks County Flood Mitigation Program

Government officials, partners and homeowners gathered along the Neshaminy Creek in Langhorne, Bucks County this week to celebrate the completion of a 12-year, $27 million flood mitigation project made possible through the cooperation of local and federal governments.
Flooding has historically been a problem in Bucks County. To help reduce the impact of severe flooding that was repeatedly occurring in the lower part of the Neshaminy Creek watershed, causing destruction and ruining people’s homes and belongings, the Bucks County Commissioners and local Conservation District decided to initiate a voluntary program in 2001.
After working with Bucks County for over 50 years, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service was able to provide funding to improve safety and reduce flood damages to homes and businesses in the lower 18 miles of the watershed.
Over the past 12 years, NRCS has provided almost $26 million for the project, $10 million of which came from the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Bucks County was also able to provide around $1 million.
These funds were used in several ways. People who wanted to move out of the flood-prone areas could voluntary have their home purchased at fair market value. There were 32 purchased, removed, and properties were restored to natural conditions of grass and trees.
For people who loved where they lived and wished to stay, their homes were elevated to get them and their belongings above 100-year flood elevation. 71 homes were elevated, including one that was raised 14 feet high.
During the ceremony, Congressman Fitzpatrick noted, “as each of these homes were elevated and during the course of those repetitive flooding events, fewer and fewer families were affected, and the flood insurance payouts were less and less.”
In other situations a room was added to get utilities and critical living space out of flood prone basements. There were 29 room add-ons.
“Altogether, we had an impact on 183 homes, and the cost benefits to those homes were significant,” said Denise Coleman, NRCS State Conservationist.
“This project has created better living conditions and created a lot of work in the community,” Coleman added. “A flood warning system was developed, environmental restoration of the riparian areas was done, and it reduced dangerous situations for many of the residents.”
Sam Smith, the first homeowner to have his house elevated agrees that there have been many benefits for him and his family. Most importantly, the impact of flooding has been reduced; and he experienced this with Hurricane Irene.
“There was four feet of water in my basement, which is now called my new crawl space, and it was a matter of just taking a hose and washing it out.” Sam recalls the angst and anxiety that he and his family went through before the mitigation, “watching weather reports and thinking here it comes again, what are we going to do, and throwing your couches and furniture into a dumpster and you’re out of your home for a long period of time. This program really does take a lot of that away.”
As a federal agency, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s mission is to help people at the local level solve natural resource problems.
“We work through partnerships to find solutions that can be voluntarily implemented,” said Coleman. “Projects like this are excellent examples of how we try to help people and local communities.”

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