A Full House for Public Meeting on Flood Protection Project
Every seat was taken, and as the first public meeting on Bloomsburg's flood protection project got underway, organizers found even more chairs to accommodate the crowd. Approximately 75 people gathered at the Bloomsburg Fire Department for the mid-April meeting to hear more about the $30 million project, which will protect Autoneum and Windsor foods ─ two of the community's largest companies with a combined employment of nearly 900.
Numerous concerns were expressed ─ potential costs to the community, protection of other structures, and the possibility of "induced" flooding resulting from diverted floodwaters. Primarily, however, attendees were there to learn. Several brought notebooks or legal pads, and spent much of the evening taking notes as speakers described the project and the time line for its implementation. On behalf of the Columbia County Commissioners,
Another indication of the community's interst - many brought notebooks or legal pads, and spent the evening taking notes.
SEDA-COG secured $15 million in federal funds for the project, which will be administered through SEDA-COG's Community Development program. Funding also includes approximately $12 million from the Commonwealth's H2O PA program, secured through the efforts of Senator John Gordner and Representative David Millard.
Together, Autoneum and Windsor Foods have pledged to contribute $3 million to the project and, once the two flood protection systems are operating, the companies will be financially responsible for the systems' operations and maintenance. While Autoneum and Windsor Foods are the focus of this project, public and economic development officials continue to pursue funds to help homeowners flood-proof their properties. As for induced flooding, SEDA-COG's Glenda Ruch, project coordinator, said, "We must evaluate any and all impacts of these two projects, and address those impacts before we are permitted to build the project."
Planning and construction of the two flood walls will take three years or more, but the project is moving ahead. SEDA-COG has distributed a Request for Proposals for engineering services, and expects to have an engineer retained by the end of June.
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