Posted March 19, 2020
JOHNSTOWN — New flood protection work has finally begun in Johnstown, with a few million in federal funding on the way.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a total of $103.1 million has been allocated by President Donald Trump for the Pittsburgh district’s civil works program in fiscal year 2021. This includes $2.1 million for channel maintenance in Johnstown.
“The budget represents a continuing, fiscally prudent investment in the nation’s water resources infrastructure,” Col. Andrew Short, Pittsburgh District commander, said in a press release.
Josh Shaffer, a project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, agreed that the funding is much-needed — especially in Flood City.
“We have a lengthy list of maintenance needs,” he said. “I think the take-home message would be, ‘We’ve got some momentum now.’”
There are approximately 9 miles of federally owned channels in Cambria County, Shaffer said, consisting of sections of the Stonycreek, Conemaugh and Little Conemaugh rivers.
He noted that survey and sampling work were set to begin. Laborers in yellow vests could be seen marking weep holes in the channel behind Greater Johnstown Senior High School in Moxham on March 11.
This project, according to Shaffer, is part of a $1.2-million deal with Green World Contracting that was inked in mid-September.
As part of the contract, Green World is to assist in sediment and tree removal, cleaning and resealing concrete joints, and clearing weep holes. Shaffer said the focal point of this work is at the “horseshoe bend” behind the high school and between the Horner Street and Central Avenue bridges.
This project comes as result of a $1.6-million federal allocation for the 2019 fiscal year in Johnstown.
And although the city’s system received only $21,000 for the current fiscal year, the recent funding comes as an improvement from past years. Past Army Corps of Engineers project manager Dave Heidish told Our Town in 2018 that the Johnstown flood protection system receives zero federal dollars between 2009 and 2018.
As result, an Army Corps inspection in 2014 rated the channels as being in an “unacceptable” condition.
“This project received a Minimally Acceptable rating in 2010 and has had no maintenance work performed on it between periodic inspections, a total of four years,” the inspection report’s executive summary states. “Unacceptable ratings for unwanted vegetation growth, encroachments, concrete surfaces, underseepage relief wells/toe drainage systems, culverts/discharge pipes and flap gates contribute to the system’s overall unacceptable rating.”
Shaffer said the new $2.1-million allocation should be on hand in October for the start of the 2021 fiscal year.
“We don’t have a scope of work clearly defined yet since its very early in the process. Likely what we’re going to do again is remove sediment and trees in the channel,” he said.
Shaffer added that the current project at the horseshoe bend behind the school should be completed by the end of September.
“We’re kind of at the mercy of Mother Nature.”