Pennsylvania Governor Budgets $100 Million for Flood Control

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, February 7, 2008 (ENS) – Declaring that Pennsylvania must act boldly to fix its huge number of structurally deficient bridges, high-hazard dams and outdated aviation and rail freight facilities, Governor Edward Rendell this week urged the General Assembly today to approve his rebuilding Pennsylvania proposal.

The governor’s $28 billion budget proposals includes $100 million for flood-control projects over the next three years.

He says the additional funds will allow the state 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.

“Pennsylvanians have battled a number of storms that resulted in flooding over the past few years,” said the governor. “Unfortunately, in some communities, rivers and streams were not able to handle the resulting runoff and water flow. What we were left with was hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in the form of lost homes and damaged property and infrastructure.”

House cleaning after heavy flooding from
the Delaware River, July 2006. Water
level reached five feet high inside this
house in Yardley, Pennsylvania.
(Photo by Leif Skoogfors courtesy FEMA)

Debt incurred for flood mitigation efforts will be paid by collecting a surcharge of 7 cents per $100 of homeowners’ insurance premium and putting those funds in a dedicated account for this purpose.

Total flood-related debt service in 2011 is expected to be $3.3 million

Under the enhanced flood-protection program, the state will have additional resources to help communities rehabilitate existing flood-protection projects.

There will be more resources to repair or replace deteriorated culverts and construct new projects like waterway channels, floodwalls, levees and stream bank stabilization, said Governor Rendell.

In 2008-09, Rebuilding Pennsylvania calls for accelerating $200 million for bridge repairs, $13 million for flood-control projects, $12 million for repairs to state-owned dams, $10 million for new rail freight projects and $5 million for aviation projects.

The 2008-09 budget proposal also includes $15 million in new General Fund investments for local dam repairs, flood-plain mapping and infrastructure for business development.

The Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, will be responsible for working with those state agencies and municipalities that own the unsafe dams.

Across the commonwealth, there are 24 state owned high-hazard dams that have been classified as unsafe by DEP’s dam safety program. Repair work to some of these dams is in the design or construction phase, or is already eligible for funding through the state’s capital budget. The cost to repair the remaining 17 dams has been estimated at $37 million.

Additionally, 21 unsafe high-hazard dams are owned by county or local governments. The governor has called for the state matching loan/grant program to help cover 30 percent of the cost of repairing those dams.

“Dams can protect downstream communities and the environment, and they can provide recreational opportunities for anglers and boater in addition to a reliable supply of water,” Governor Rendell said. “This initiative will allow us to preserve or breach unsafe structures to eliminate the potential for a catastrophe.”

But Republicans in the General Assembly rejected Rendell’s budget as too expensive.

“If enacted, what the governor has proposed would increase spending by more than $1.6 billion or a 6.1 percent increase over last year’s budget,” said Representative Rick Geist of Altoona.

“Since he took office in 2003,” Geist said, “the governor has increased spending each year by more than a billion dollars and this is bad economic policy for Pennsylvania.”

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