Simply put, The Baldwin Street flood alleviation plan is not an immediate fix for Bridgeville’s very current flood problem.
It’s going to take years—maybe even decades—before the Baldwin plan reaches the point where McLaughlin Creek is re-routed and greenspace is added to soak up the overflow.
“We’re looking at this as a possible 10 to 20 year project right now,” said John McCans, chairman of Bridgeville’s planning commission at a meeting last week.
Even if Bridgeville had the necessary $30 million ready to spend today—which it doesn’t—McLaughlin Creek couldn’t be touched until Bower Hill Road is torn up and rebuilt along a new route.
Although that’s going to sound like bad news to people who suffered losses during this summer’s flood, this could be a chance for borough officials to embrace a new strategy—if you can’t make the area safer for the residents, then help the residents move somewhere safer.
Former Bridgeville mayor Pat DeBlasio Jr. urged borough officials to begin the process acquiring properties from owners willing to sell.
“People may have questions of valuation, but they are not holding on to their properties out of love,” he said. “They are trapped there financially.”
Various environmental and emergency agencies have said that the most sure-fire way to flood-proof a property is to remove it from a flood plain.
“Even if [the Baldwin Street plan] never happens,” DeBlasio said, “we’ve solved the problem for the people that we acquire property from. They are never going to get flooded again because they are not going to be there. And they aren’t going to sell to somebody else who becomes a resident in a flood zone.”
Bridgeville’s budget wouldn’t allow for the immediate en masse purchase of all the borough’s flood plain properties, but there are federal programs that help local governments acquire land in these types of situations.
Federal agencies have rejected Bridgeville’s requests for help in the past, however, the community’s flood problem appears to be worsening, and the borough now meets one key criteria for property acquisition assistance—it has a conceptual plan for how it would use the land as greenspace.
The Baldwin Street plan is designed as four phases:
- Property acquisition
- Re-align Bower Hill Road
- Increase the capacity of McLaughlin Creek and surround it with greenspace
- Pursue development along the south side of the new Bower Hill Road
Each phase include many smaller elements that don’t necessarily have to be executed in strict order, but from a macro level, Bower Hill Road has to be moved before the creek can be altered.
“The road will need to be realigned to get the appropriate [creek] capacity for this area,” said Carolyn Yagle, the borough’s environmental engineering consultant.
The planning commission meets again on Aug. 27 to get more details about the plan. At some point, the commission will make a recommendation to borough council regarding which actions to take. Council is not bound by the planning commission’s recommendation.
In the meantime, the borough is pursuing numerous smaller scale tactics to reduce flood risk.