– Several bills that would empower local officials to better maintain creeks and streams to prevent flooding were approved by the House this week, according to Reps. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter), Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) and Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter).
“This is great news for landowners, homeowners, business owners and local officials who want to protect their communities and properties from the devastation caused by flooding,” Owlett said. “If we want our communities to grow, if we want to encourage economic growth and development, we need to be able to effectively maintain our creeks and streams and provide assurance that your investment in a home, a business or a farm isn’t going to be washed away the next time it rains.”
Among the bills approved this week is Pickett’s House Bill 2405
, which would create a program that allows counties, in consultation with their county conservation district, to issue emergency permits for stream maintenance. This is modeled after a pilot project that has proven successful in Bradford County that could be expanded statewide.
“The goal of our legislation is to give the power back to the people to prevent the damage a ravaging creek can cause in their communities,” Pickett said. “Local government officials are frustrated by the red tape and delays they encounter when trying to address stream maintenance issues. These bills will enable them to do something when it needs to be done.”
Other bills passed this week include those that would create a permit specific to smaller maintenance projects (House Bill 2406
) and clarify that no permit would be required for maintenance on a culvert (House Bill 2408
), removal of flood-related hazards that are deemed to be an emergency by a state or county (House Bill 2409
), and maintenance activities conducted within 50 feet of a bridge or culvert (House Bill 2410
). An additional measure would require DEP to issue an annual report to the General Assembly regarding flooding and stream maintenance and restoration. The measures now go to the Senate for consideration.
The bills are part of a package of legislation developed based on testimony gathered during a House Majority Policy Committee hearing in Wellsboro late last year. Causer is chairman of that committee.
“These bills will go a long way toward getting government out of the way of local officials and landowners who simply want to maintain streams and clear debris to protect against flooding,” Causer said. “Rather than relying on permission from government bureaucrats, we need to empower our local people to do what they need to do.”
The House also approved a resolution Owlett authored based on testimony heard at last year’s Policy Committee hearing. House Resolution 179
calls on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to update its per capita impact indicator and thresholds to ensure all citizens and communities impacted by natural disasters are treated fairly. Owlett said the change is needed after Tioga County communities were denied federal disaster relief while just across the border in Steuben County, NY, citizens were deemed eligible for assistance.
The lawmaker noted two additional measures are poised for final votes in the House when it returns to session next week.
Owlett’s House Bill 2404
would allow 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 government entity to properly maintain the streams and would not require pre-approval for maintenance projects.
The other measure, House Bill 2407
, would clarify the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has no authority for permitting or enforcement related to stream clearing or maintenance activities. This authority would belong solely to DEP and county conservation districts as appropriate.
Representative Clint Owlett
Representative Tina Pickett
Representative Martin Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Owlett/Causer Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
717.772.9846 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Pickett Media Contact: Andy Briggs
717-260-6474 / email@example.com