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County cites flash flood damage

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HONESDALE, PA — The primary message following the county commissioners’ report on August 10 storm damage in northern Wayne County was, “Please take heed of weather alerts,” Chairman Brian Smith said on August 16.

Smith visited the Balls Eddy area in Scott Township on August 15. He said heavy thunder storms prompted flash flooding, carrying away houses and sheds and depositing them on neighboring properties. “It’s just amazing to see what two to four inches of rain falling in two hours can do.” He estimated that eight homes were swept away by debris-laden flooding near the Balls Creek bridge, where flooding swelled over a rip-rapped flood-prone area and left debris all the way to the West Branch eddy.

Smith knew of no injuries related to the flooding, but property damage was extensive. There was “incredible” erosion on the state’s Winterdale Road, which will require significant repairs, he said.

Scott Township declared an emergency, as did arriving PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials, according to Commissioner Wendell Kay, who separately met with emergency management officials. The township is still waiting for damage estimates, and DEP has issued stream permits to do cleanup work. “Apparently it was an isolated incident, as only minor damage was reported in the rest of the county,” Kay said.

Sen. Lisa Baker was said to be seeking assistance with this and several other storm-damage situations, Smith said.

Kay said there seems to be a funding argument at the state level over unnamed winter storms, but “maybe they’ll look at these differently.”

In other news, the county gathered 1,130 signatures for their petition to prevent the Fish and Boat Commission from its scheduled fall demolition of the former Hankins Pond Dam. “The plan now is to cut a big V out of the middle, and we think there’s another way to deal with it,” Smith said.

On August 17, the commissioners sent a second letter to Gov. Tom Wolf about the dam’s preservation. This one offered thanks for Wolf’s intervention in organizing a conference telephone call to discuss the dam, but said the call did not provide the best forum for the discussion. The letter included 1,135 petition signatures for saving the dam and made a “formal request” for an open on-site discussion. It said, “We are hopeful that a public-private partnership” can resolve DEP’s high-hazard concerns. “There are times when public officials must work together to address the reasons for regulations, and the effects of those regulations, as they relate to the preservation of important historic sites.”

In other business, the county received final approval of $404,640 in 2017 Community Development Block Grants to fund county projects, and projects for Honesdale Borough and Salem Township.

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