The LuLac Edition #851, June 18th, 2009
PHOTO INDEX: CONGRESSMAN PAUL KANJORSKI.
OF RIVERS AND LEVEES
This weekend, the River Common development project will open to the public. The Susquehanna River, the bain of our existance here in Wyoming Valley will all of a sudden become a partner in business promotion and quality of life. A few thoughts on the project.
1. People usually rail on and on about government spending and taxes. We, as a people are quick to point to the government as a tax spendng machine where we get little for our money. Maybe that's because we tend to take so much for granted. Things like clean water to drink, states without borders where we have easy passage and educational oppportunities sometimes make our complaing seem like we're spoiled children to the world outside of America. But once in a while we see concrete evidence of what good government can do. The River Commons Project in Wilkes Barre is ample proof of that.
2. Government projects need a shepherd to take it from idea to conclusion. Again, in this era of remote TV switchers, Twitter messages and instant information mixed with instant gratification, the impatient forget the practical scope of dressing up a threatening river. Tomorrow there will be handshakes, proclamations and kudos to various and sundry public and private people who will be doing their own share of chest thumping and taking credit for the marvel that will be unveiled. But we should take the time to look to Washington and see that our representative in Congress was huge in getting this project finished. Representative Kanjorski has had a few ideas on river development, some accepted, some not. But throughout the process, he never backed down from the premise that a nice, clean, modern riverfront would add to our quality of life. He also fought tirelessly for the safety of our residents from the ravages of another flood. I personally thank him and congratulate him for his role in this major endeavor. Many of my readers think I'm crazed when I write that I don't mind paying taxes in this country, state, county or my city of residence. Taxes are the dues we pay to live with basic things not available in other parts of the world. The River Common project and Levee Raising System are shining examples. Congressman Kanjorski has made flood control in the Wyoming Valley one of his top priorities since he was elected to Congress. He was instrumental in enabling the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project to take place and ensuring that the project kept moving forward, which as a result, made the River Common possible. Many will look at this marvel and shrug their shoulders thinking this happened by a snap of the fingers or the blink of an eye. Or to put in the most common thread of current day pop culture understanding, like switching from "American Idol" to "America's Got Talent". It didn't happen that way, there were years of work in keeping the levee system alive which made the River Front a reality. For those interested and who can appreciate that, here's the time line on the project:
1972 – Hurricane Agnes devastates Wyoming Valley, flooding and destroying thousands of homes throughout the area.
As a private lawyer before his election to Congress, Congressman Kanjorski spent a year and a half year serving as volunteer counsel and advocate for victims of the flood.
1985 – Congressman Kanjorski begins his service in Congress, and he vows to make the completion of the levee raising project one of his highest priorities.
1986 – During his first term in Congress, Congressman Kanjorski successfully includes the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project in the federal Water Resources Development Act, authorizing funding for the project and enabling the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and implement the project. Without this authorization, the project would not have been possible.
1990 – The Army Auditing Agency during President Bush Sr.’s administration tries to cancel the project. But, Congressman Kanjorski ensures that the project remains alive and receives federal funding by meeting with the Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and testifying before the appropriate Committee which then includes funding for the project in its appropriations bill.
1991 – A new Army Audit Agency report is completed which agrees with all issues regarding the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project.
1992 - Congressman Kanjorski successfully includes the riverfront development project in Wilkes-Barre and flood protection for Toby Creek and Abrahams Creek as part of the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project in the federal Water Resources Development Act. This legislation authorizes funding for the added pieces of the project, enabling the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and implement them. Without this authorization, these added projects would not have been possible.
1993 – In addition to the structural components of the project, Congressman Kanjorski obtains authorization for non-structural mitigation plans to offset adverse effects which the projects could cause.
1996 – On January 20, the Susquehanna River reaches one its highest levels since the Agnes flood, causing damage throughout the majority of the Wyoming Valley.
Right after the flood in January, Congressman Kanjorski meets with President Clinton in the Oval Office to discuss the need to begin construction of the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project, and to invite the President to visit Northeastern Pennsylvania and inspect the flood damage. In February, Congressman Kanjorski brings President Clinton to Wilkes-Barre to survey the flood damage firsthand. After the visit, President Clinton pledges his support to raise the levee.
1996 – In June, the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority is created. In October, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority sign the project cooperation agreement committing the local share of funding totaling 25 percent of the project. The federal government would pay for the other 75 percent of the project, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agrees to split the local share with Luzerne County.
1996 - Congressman Kanjorski also successfully negotiates with the Army Corps of Engineers to include the replacement of 13 pump stations within the actual project. As a result, federal funding provides 75 percent of the project cost, saving Luzerne County more than $23 million which would have otherwise been a local responsibility.
2000 – Congressman Kanjorski secures important modifications to the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project, as he wins approval from the Army Corps of Engineers to have a better designed flood wall which would include three portals, providing access to the river for recreation, and it would take up less space while providing effective flood protection.
This replaces the design for an earthen embankment levee which would have required a large base, so that for every foot the levee increases in height, it would then require additional space at the base. It would have also destroyed most of the trees in the River Common.
Because Congressman Kanjorski reworked the flood wall design, the new wall made the space for the River Common possible, where as there would have otherwise not been room.
2002 - The Army Corps completes the major flood control portion of the levee raising project, which now provides Wyoming Valley residents with Agnes-level flood protection.
2004 – Hurricane Ivan causes flooding in much of the Wyoming Valley. But, the levee system protects the Wilkes-Barre area and prevents flood damages to thousands of homes.
2005 – Congressman Kanjorski continues to secure federal funding for the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project. In the fiscal year 2006 appropriations bill, he is also able to secure federal funding for the riverfront development project, enabling the Army Corps of Engineers to begin this phase of the project.
2007 - Congressman Kanjorski successfully includes Solomon Creek as part of the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project in the federal Water Resources Development Act. Because the project would not receive authorization as an independent project, Congressman Kanjorski works to incorporate it into the levee raising project because the creek is hydrologically linked to the watershed protected by the levees.
2009 – River Common and Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project are unveiled to the public. The levee raising project is one of the largest flood control projects east of the Mississippi River.