– A group of lawmakers from the Northern Tier, as well as central and western Pennsylvania, will soon introduce a package of bills aimed at improving communities’ abilities to clear creeks and streams to help prevent flooding and protect lives and property.
The bills grew out of a House Majority Policy Committee hearing held last December in Tioga County, which featured testimony from county and local officials in Tioga and Bradford counties; conservation officials from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and local conservation districts; and farmers and landowners.
“The response to the hearing late last year was tremendous, and the testimony presented made it clear that one of the biggest challenges our communities face with stream clearing is a cumbersome and time-consuming permitting process,” said Rep. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter). “With this package of bills, we aim to streamline permitting to ensure our communities are able to properly maintain our creeks and streams to minimize the risk to lives and property in the event of excessive rainfall.”
The stream maintenance package of bills includes 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
(Rep. Tina Pickett, R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna): 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.
“This is an important first step toward correcting the issues we see all across the Commonwealth that are causing flooding and property damage, as well as putting lives at risk,” Owlett said. “I have reached out to the governor and secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection in hopes of working with them on this issue but have not yet received a response. I will continue to press for action on these measures as soon as possible.”
Representative Clint Owlett
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
RepOwlett.com / Facebook.com/RepOwlett