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EPA grant will allow Muncy to improve flood mitigation
May 2, 2018

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Lycoming County will receive an $800,000 revolving loan fund grant to support cleanup activities for Brownfield sites contaminated with hazardous substances. The county hopes to start in Muncy with flood mitigation. There are still properties eligible for buyouts and some empty spaces that could be mapped out for green space.

On April 25th, the US Environmental Protection Agency awarded 144 communities Brownfield grants for environmental assessments, revolving loan funds, and to redevelop underutilized properties. A total of $54.3 million was designated and Pennsylvania was given $2.7 million to support 7 projects.

"EPA's Brownfields Program expands the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses, using existing infrastructure," said Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator.

Jenny Picciano, Community Delvelpment Planner for Lycoming County, said, "These grant funds will allow the county to clean up Brownfield sites identified in prior assessment grants, leverage public and private funding for economic redevelopment, and ultimately reinvest in our communities."

The Brownfields Program targets communities that are economically disadvantaged and provides funding and assistance to transform contaminated sites into assets that can generate jobs and spur economic growth. A study found that property values of homes located near Brownfields sites that are cleaned up increased between 5 and 15 percent post cleanup.

The Muncy resiliency plan will address specific flood mitigation in the Greater Muncy Area from an economic standpoint. An advisory committee has been established to explore flood risk management solutions. Representatives are from the Muncy Valley Hospital, the Muncy Professional Business Association, Muncy Bank & Trust, the Muncy Historical Society, the Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Department, and many concerned citizens and residents.

A public meeting was held in Muncy on April 9th with Tetra-Tech, the consulting firm hired to prioritize and initiate the assessments. With them, the committee is working with the US Army Corp of Engineers and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

So far officials have surveyed over 700 properties according to Josh Schnitzlein, Lycoming County hazard mitigation planner. They are mapping out which homes flood the most, where the stormwater inefficiencies are and have learned where the high water marks are in the area. This data combined with the general flood elevations and surveys will help create a path towards the Muncy Resiliency project.

With the funds, the county will continue to look at properties that qualify for buyouts, develop plans to preserve historic structures, review recommendations for the stormwater system and focus on "green building" for urban renewal.

It will have its challenges remarked Ed Feigles from the GIS department of the county and the Muncy Borough president. With more than 40 percent of the land in a flood plain, residents are struggling with the possibility of rising water from the Susquehanna River and Muncy Creek. "We now have pretty darn accurate maps of where the water goes," said Feigles who also spearheaded a hydrological study last summer of the Muncy storm water and sewer system. This will help the borough of Muncy forecast with more accuracy the various flood stages.

"The biggest part of the project is we'll be able to predict where the water goes, when it goes depending on which creek floods," Feigles said.

In addition, a plan is needed for watershed restoration and to find ways to reduce flooding in the Muncy area. These Brownfield grants can be used to leverage the water infrastructure and address the water quality aspects of the designated Brownfield sites in the Muncy community.

Meanwhile the Lycoming County planning commission has approved two multi-lot subdivisions, one in Jordan Township and the other, with conditions, is in Muncy Township.

The next meeting for the planning commission will be held on May 17 at 6 p.m. in the Executive Plaza in downtown Williamsport.

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