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Bloomsburg plans how to keep out future flooding

Columbia County hired engineerings to conduct a study on the Fishing Creek Floodplain, hoping to pinpoint ways to make improvements.

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. — Leaders are trying to figure out how to keep homes and businesses from the seemingly constant threat of flooding, an issue that's plagued the Columbia County community for more than a century. 

The Columbia County Commissioners held their final public meeting on the issue before deciding what should be done.

Flooding has been a problem in the West End of Bloomsburg for decades, with water from Fishing Creek covering roads and threatening homes during storms.

"We all remember Agnes in '72, at least a lot of us do. Ever since then, it's been 1994, 1996, 2004, but since the year 2000, I think you could count about five major floods," said Tom Lawson/lead Technical Engineer, Borton-Lawson.

The biggest flood was in 2011 is when parts of Bloomsburg saw several feet of water brought on by Hurricane Lee. 

Last year, the county hired engineering firm Borton-Lawson to conduct a study on the Fishing Creek Floodplain, hoping to pinpoint ways to make improvements.

"The people here just said, 'we have so much fear anymore.' It's really about, 'our homes are getting wrecked, and then we can't even sleep at night when it rains.' So, they say, 'please do something,'" added Lawson.

Lawson's team mapped out a possible levee system to wall off the creek from the community, a project that would take more than three years to complete and cost upwards of $30 million. 

Residents like Marie Polk say it's worth it.

"The end result of them putting up the levee, that was it. We live on Barton Street, and in 2011 we had 30-inches on the first floor," she said.

Former Bloomsburg Mayor Bill Kreisher says the town has been trying to fix the issue of flooding for decades, and with more grant money available from federal and state governments, he says it's now a real possibility.

"With the infrastructure programs that are now proposed by the federal government as well as the state government, I think it's going to be doable," said former mayor Bill Kreisher. "That's been the problem in the past, where does the money come from?"

After the meeting, Borton-Lawson submitted its final report on the flood study. It will be left up to the county and the town to decide what steps to take to keep homes and businesses safe from rising waters.

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