Study to ex­am­ine adding flood bar­ri­ers in Port De­posit

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

PORT DE­POSIT — A new geotech­ni­cal study funded by Ex­elon Gen­er­a­tion will ex­am­ine the pos­si­bil­ity of in­stalling new bar­ri­ers to stop flood­wa­ters from in­un­dat­ing the town.

Vicky Rinker­man, Port De­posit town ad­min­is­tra­tor, an­nounced Tues­day night that AECOM won the bid to con­duct the study, which will de­ter­mine if the Nor­folk South­ern rail­road em­bank­ments can sup­port a tem­po­rary bar­rier, when needed, to hold back the Susque­hanna River.

“Any­thing we can do to even re­duce the amount of dam­age is win-win 100 per­cent for us,” Rinker­man said.

Ex­elon Gen­er­a­tion gave the town $73,000 in do­na­tions to­ward the study. As part of the study, AECOM will de­ter­mine if the un­der­passes at Van­nort Drive and Net­ter’s Al­ley — if equipped with some sort of damming de­vice — will hold back the river when flood­gates are opened on the Conowingo Dam.

“The Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion has done some work at Net­ters and Van­nort,” Rinker­man said, adding those ar­eas are also part of the stormwa­ter re­me­di­a­tion project launched by the state ear­lier this year.

That project — which was sup­posed to be com­pleted by May 2018 — is now on hold to be re-de­signed. En­gi­neers need to ac­count for solid gran­ite and other bar­ri­ers to con­struc­tion, along with the dis­cov­ery of as­bestos pip­ing. This in­cludes the rev­e­la­tion that the un­der­passes are one large con­crete pipe in­stead of mul­ti­ple pieces.

In the mean­time, AECOM will start its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the po­ten­tial flood bar­ri­ers, which David J. Athey, prin­ci­pal wa­ter re­sources en­gi­neer, said would in­clude test­ing the rail bed.

“We will do some bor­ing into the em­bank­ments to test strength and per­me­abil­ity,” Athey told the mayor and town coun­cil.

Coun­cil­man Tom Knight men­tioned that SHA also con­ducted bor­ings.

“Would the re­sults of those bor­ings be help­ful?” Knight asked.

Athey said AECOM plans to test a blad­der sys­tem that would be brought in and in­stalled only when needed, to help the out­falls be­ing up­graded by SHA.

“We’ll look more closely at these un­der­pin­nings and look at what ef­fect these blad­ders could have,” Athey said. “We have to de­ter­mine at what el­e­va­tion these floods oc­cur.”

The idea is in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions the blad­ders would be an­chored and in­flated to pre­vent the river from en­ter­ing the town. Rinker­man said this Ex­elon-funded study will find out if it could work, and which sys­tem would do the best job.

“This is to de­ter­mine if the town will be able to go through with in­stalling tem­po­rary flood­gates,” she said, adding these would work in con­cert with the SHA’s out­fall project.

In the al­most 22 years since an ice gorge in­vaded the town, a sys­tem has been de­vised where Port De­posit of­fi­cials are no­ti­fied by op­er­a­tors of the dam and can mon­i­tor the river at nu­mer­ous points when­ever crest gates are opened. With 52 gates at their dis­posal, dam op­er­a­tors can open any num­ber to re­lease pres­sure.

In Port De­posit, sea­soned res­i­dents know that there is no need for con­cern un­til that num­ber ap­proaches 16. By then, wa­ter cov­ers Route 222 north of town and be­gins to cover Ma­rina Park at the south end. When the num­ber of gates passes 20, res­i­dents be­gin to take ac­tion, de­pend­ing on their lo­ca­tion along Main Street.

“Be­cause of the tech­nol­ogy we have and be­cause of the emer­gency plans in place, we al­ways have enough in­for­ma­tion,” Rinker­man said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

David J. Athey, prin­ci­pal wa­ter re­sources en­gi­neer for AECOM, ex­plains to Port De­posit coun­cil mem­bers how the engi­neer­ing firm will con­duct a geotech­ni­cal study to de­ter­mine if the railbeds and over­passes owned by Nor­folk South­ern can hold up un­der the weight of wa­ter from the Susque­hanna River dur­ing a flood event.

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