Monday, December 30, 2019

PA Township News: Unique Army Corps Programs Help Communities Become More Resilient

By Sarah Lazo, U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers, Baltimore District

While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may be best known for its large-scale, multi-year construction projects like dams and levees, it is also able to partner with townships through unique programs to address diverse water resource issues.
These efforts are typically completed in less than two years and range from a 50 percent cost share to full federal investment. Partners can include states, local governments, Native American tribes, and other nonfederal entities.
“Through the Floodplain Management Services and Planning Assistance to States programs, the Army Corps provides technical guidance, planning expertise, and products to local partners,” says Amy Guise, Planning Division chief in the Corps’ Baltimore district.
These programs include flood modeling and floodplain mapping, flood hazard vulnerability analysis, hurricane preparedness and evacuation studies, evaluation of flood risk management options, flood proofing studies, public education, watershed planning, stream assessments, stormwater mapping, EPA’s total maximum daily load-related analysis, and comprehensive plans for the development, use, and conservation of water-related resources.
“Through these innovative programs and financing, we provide the manpower, state-of-the-art tools, and engineering expertise to fill gaps in local resources and capabilities,” Guise says.
Floodplain Management Services 
Many communities throughout southcentral Pennsylvania are vulnerable to flooding, most of which were significantly impacted during Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011.
Through the Floodplain Management Services Program, the Army Corps has performed technical flood risk management analyses and developed flood risk management alternatives for communities in this region.
Over the last decade, the Baltimore district has conducted bridge surveys and developed hydrologic and hydraulic models for the Buffalo Valley Run watershed in York County; completed a flood risk management analysis for Middle Creek in Hamiltonban Township, Adams County; developed flood modeling and mapping for Tom’s Creek, also in Adams County; and conducted a hydrologic analysis for the Upper Swatara Watershed in Schuylkill County, among other projects.
The floodplain program also funds project proposals through the Pennsylvania Silver Jackets, an interagency team that addresses flood hazards in the Commonwealth. The Army Corps and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency jointly lead this team.
In 2019, the Silver Jackets held ice jam trainings in Bloomsburg and Oil City, as well as flood proofing workshops in Lebanon and Bucks counties and at the Pennsylvania Association of Floodplain Managers Conference.
Planning Assistance To States
The Army Corps has recently partnered with several local agencies through the Planning Assistance to States (PAS) Program to address water resource concerns.
The Corps partnered with the York County Planning Commission to collect baseline stormwater data and address TMDL [nutrient reduction] and MS4 [stormwater pollution prevention] goals for the county.
It also developed a database for water resources management and mapped stormwater infrastructure for the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority. 
In another project, the Corps worked with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to develop models and evaluate alternatives for enhancing flood resiliency in the Chiques Creek Watershed in Lebanon and Lancaster counties.
Unique Partnerships
Through the PAS program, the Corps is undertaking a flood risk management study of buildings and infrastructure in the Borough of Muncy and Muncy Creek Township, Lycoming County. 
The Corps is analyzing the potential extent and depth of flood waters based on various storm scenarios and preparing structural and non-structural solutions to reduce nuisance flooding.
Project costs are split evenly between the Corps and a nonfederal sponsor:
Lycoming County, in this case. Muncy Bank and Trust Company has also provided money to support the project.
“We attempt to defray project costs as much as possible through the use of cash and in-kind services from various interested partners,” Guise says. “Along with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the bank as a partner and financier turns this project into a true public-private partnership — one that is rare. To our knowledge, this is the first time a bank has contributed to this type of federal project.”
The Corps hopes this collaboration can be replicated nationwide.
“We are optimistic that this unique partnership with the bank will open the door for similar involvement in the future,” Guise says. “There are plenty of solutions in our region that can support business and economic vitality and help protect our watersheds and people.”
Design & Construction Support
While the floodplain and planning assistance programs provide critical guidance and products to support local communities, they do not lead directly to the physical construction of projects.
The Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), however, allows the Corps to partner with local sponsors to study, design, and construct smaller water resources, flood risk management, and environmental projects without congressional authorization.
The federal government funds the initial feasibility study phase up to $100,000. Any remaining costs are shared evenly.
If the project is found to be economically feasible and environmentally acceptable in the study phase, it may move into design and implementation at a cost share, with the government typically paying more than half of the costs. 
For the majority of projects, the federal construction costs must be less than $10 million to proceed through the CAP program.
The Corps can also provide design and construction assistance to non-federal partners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed at a cost share through the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration and Protection Program
Typical projects include sediment and erosion control, ecosystem restoration, protection of critical public works infrastructure, and the beneficial use of dredged material. Projects are limited to a total cost of $10 million and require a 25 percent nonfederal partner cost share.
“We continue to try to revolutionize the way we do business to best meet the needs of our taxpayers,” Guise says. “Performing more work through these programs provides one example of how we’re getting there.”
For more information on these programs, contact info, and sample assistance request letters, go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Technical Service Program webpage.
[Note: Three U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Districts cover Pennsylvania-- Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia.]
(Photo: Corps staffers analyze conditions in the Swatara Creek.)

(Reprinted from the January PA Township News published by the PA State Association of Township SupervisorsClick Here for information on how to subscribe to this award-winning information resource.)
[Posted: December 30, 2019]

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