The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 22, 2013

How Richland supervisors aim to combat stormwater runoff issues

When rain falls hard in the area, stormwater runoff ponds and rivers often grow and flow through backyards and basements throughout Richland Township.

And then, many times, a wave of residents flood the township’s meetings with frustration and concerns, Supervisor Wayne Langerholc said.

“It’s getting to the point our meetings are dominated by runoff concerns,” Langerholc said, saying the issue has been neglected too long.

Until now, supervisors said.

Monday night’s meeting included the fourth workshop in a month aimed at compiling township stormwater runoff issues – a first step in what Langerholc said could usher in a decades-long effort to eliminate them.

“This is a major, major commitment and investment by the township that will not be accomplished in a month ... a year or even five years,” he said, calling the project “enormous” in scope.

The issue is decades in the making, engineer Jeff Haynal of The EADS Group told residents.

“The natural water cycle has been impaired by development,” he said. “There’s less surface area now for water to infiltrate back into the ground.”

The supervisors have heard from residents from all corners of the township in recent weeks, estimating 75 or so have aired concerns publicly at their stormwater workshops.

At previous meetings, residents packed the township’s meeting room, airing runoff concerns in the Belmont area, Theatre Drive and Luray Avenue, as well as Oakridge Drive and other neighborhoods.

The township is working with EADS Group engineers to map that data, Haynal said.

It will go a long way toward determining stormwater runoff hot spots, areas where numerous issues have been reported or safety concerns exist, Langerholc said.

“That’s the next step,” Langerholc said. “We want to develop criteria to help us determine where to concentrate first.”

Areas where extensive property damage or safety concerns are common will be compiled to establish “priority areas,” he said.

That’s when costs will come in to play, Langerholc said.

“How are we going to finance this? How do we budget for it?” Langerholc said. “That’s all still up in the air.”

The township, he said, might pursue federal or state funding sources, including loans from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, better known as PennVEST.

“The ultimate goal now is to get a plan in place, so that when residents bring their stormwater concerns, we’ll have a timetable for them. They’ll be able to see their area on our list – and when we hope to address it,” Langerholc said.

Township resident Chris Polacek credited the board for working to address local stormwater woes.

His Richland home’s front yard becomes “a holding pond” for homes further up the street, he said, but Polacek is hopeful that could change in the coming years.

“It’s great they are doing this,” he said, adding that “other people have it worse than us.”

Langerholc said it’s too soon to say when the first set of runoff issues might be addressed.

“Once we get a better cost estimate, then we’ll have an idea,” he added.

For now, supervisors said the township plans to give residents another month or so to submit their stormwater runoff concerns – something they can do by calling the township or by “pinpointing” trouble spots on an interactive map on the township’s www.richlandtwp.com website.

A link is posted toward the bottom of the website’s home page.

David Hurst covers Richland Township for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.

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