Chronic Flooding Problems, Ways to Prepare for Future Floods Topics of House Republican Policy Committee Hearing
Areas to improve the prevention and cleanup of flooding among local and state officials were the topics of today’s House Republican Policy Committee hearing.
The hearing, held at the Bauerstown Volunteer Fire Department, was co-chaired by Reps. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) and Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.
“Flooding has been a problem here for a number of years,” said Vulakovich. “There are no words to describe what it’s like to experience a flood. It wipes you out. Today we want to establish the responsibilities of all agencies involved, as well as develop better flood prevention and clean-up policies.”
Vulakovich is all too familiar with the flooding problems that plague southwestern Pennsylvania. His district experienced severe flooding in August when heavy rains flooded creek beds, destroying homes and businesses in the process.
The region also suffered serious flood damage as a result of Hurricane Ivan.
The committee heard testimony from PennDOT representatives, local government officials and an official from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“There’s no way for us to prevent all flooding,” said Wayne Roller, executive director for the North Hills Council of Governments. “We can plan better and do better than what we’ve done to date. The history of Pittsburgh has to do with the three rivers and our closeness to water. Buildings were built near the rivers for convenience, meaning that many lie within the flood plains. The question is how can we do better? Through much better inter-governmental cooperation.” 
Several testifiers mentioned the flooding issue being a regional one, not just one for local governments to handle individually. 
“It’s not a question if flooding is going to occur, but when it’s going to occur,” said Christopher Lochner, Hampton Township manager. “Living in southwestern Pennsylvania, we know we will have to deal with snowstorms every winter, and we act accordingly. We need to start thinking of flooding events in the way we think of snowstorms. We need to think in regional terms. Flooding does not affect townships on an individual basis, yet that seems to be how we deal with it.” 
Mary Ellen Ramage, manager of the Borough of Etna, discussed how it doesn’t make sense for each local government to handle its flooding problems individually, since the source of the flooding waters are often located in other communities and affecting more than one community at a time. 
“Unless we start addressing the problem regionally, it will just be like treating the symptom, but not the disease,” Ramage said. “Anything we do, any future steps we take, have to be regional.”
This past September, 400 properties in Etna suffered flood damage, which is approximately 25 percent of the community. She said that if it wasn’t for the aid offered by neighboring communities and other agencies, the community of Etna would never have survived and would have been financially ruined.
While PennDOT is responsible for all state-maintained infrastructures, they are not allowed to assist municipalities with flood prevention or cleanup until the governor makes a disaster declaration concerning the area, said Anthony Andrejasik, district operations manager for PennDOT.
Testifiers also discussed the importance of debris cleanup after flood waters recede. 
“Flooding and its aftermath is a chronic problem for the communities of southwestern Pennsylvania,” Turzai said. “Representative Vulakovich has been at the forefront of this issue, fighting for better community preparedness and clean-up and recovery programs. I appreciate all of the hard work and energy he has put into finding tangible solutions for the communities affected by this problem. Today’s testifiers provided constructive suggestions on both the prevention and clean-up side of this issue.” 
Reps. Jeff Pyle (Indiana/Armstrong), Brian Ellis (R-Butler), Jerry Stern (R-Blair), Scott Hutchinson (R-Butler/Venango) and Bob Bastian (R-Bedford/Somerset) were also in attendance.
Representative Randy Vulakovich
30th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(412) 487-6600
(717) 260-6407
Contact: Ty McCauslin
(717) 772-9979
Member Site:
November 29, 2007