HARRISBURG – A package of bills spearheaded by Reps. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) and Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) in the wake of serious flooding in the Northern Tier was advanced Tuesday by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
“Thanks to the impassioned and impactful testimony provided by Northern Tier officials, landowners and farmers before the House Majority Policy Committee late last year and this committee last month, we have taken a major step forward today with the approval of these bills,” Owlett said.
“Flooding threatens lives and livelihoods in communities across the state. Better maintenance of our creeks and streams will – without a doubt – help mitigate those threats,” he continued “All we are trying to do with this package of bills is put our local leaders who know their communities, their roadways and their waterways the best in a position to address these issues BEFORE they cause property damage, or worse, loss of life.”
“At the House Majority Policy Committee hearing in Tioga County last December, property owners and municipal officials were asked to present solutions to stream destruction that occurs after significant storm events. Many good proposals were given, which resulted in this package of eight creek and stream maintenance bills,” Pickett said. “The proposals complement each other in solving many of these problems for landowners. In particular, they would empower local officials to make decisions on a timely basis to allow for quick remediation and debris removal as preventative action.”
The lawmakers expressed his appreciation to committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and members of the committee for their support of the measures, which include the following:
House Bill 2404
(Owlett): Would allow local government organizations to apply for a permit for continuing maintenance for a period of at least 10 years for the streams within their jurisdiction. This permit would grant an affirmative duty to the local government entity to properly maintain the streams and would not require the local government to get pre-approval for maintenance projects.
House Bill 2405
(Pickett): Would create a program that allows counties to opt in to address hazards within their streams by allowing for emergency maintenance permits in consultation with their county conservation district. This is modeled after a pilot project that has proven successful in Bradford County
House Bill 2406
(Rep. Jonathan Fritz, R-Susquehanna/Wayne): Would create a permit specific to smaller maintenance projects for the mitigation of flood-related hazards of less than 250 linear feet. This permit would be reviewed and issued by the local county conservation district.
House Bill 2407
(Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Lycoming/Union): Would clarify that the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has no authority for permitting or enforcement related to stream clearing or maintenance activities. This authority shall belong solely to DEP and the county conservation districts as appropriate.
House Bill 2408
(Rep. Mike Armanini, R-Clearfield/Elk): Would declare that no permit or authorization shall be required for maintenance activities conducted on a culvert.
House Bill 2409
(Rep. Tim O’Neal, R-Washington): Would state that no permit shall be required for the removal of flood-related hazards from streams that are deemed to be an emergency by a state or county.
House Bill 2410
(Rep. Brian Smith, R-Jefferson/Indiana): Would state that no permit shall be required for stream maintenance activities conducted 50 feet or less upstream or downstream of a bridge or culvert.
House Bill 2411
(Rep. John Hershey, R-Mifflin/Juniata/Franklin): Would require DEP to issue an annual report to the General Assembly regarding flooding and stream maintenance and restoration.
“It is encouraging to see these bills moving forward as we take our first major steps toward correcting these issues affecting so many people and communities across the state,” Owlett said.
Owlett noted his disappointment in the Wolf administration’s unwillingness thus far to engage in any conversation about the measures he and his fellow lawmakers have offered but said he will continue to reach out in hopes of working together to make meaningful progress in the effort to protect lives and property.
Representative Clint Owlett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia Hippler