Watershed Association Seeks Guidance from Commissioners

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By Rick Hiduk

(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)

Kevin Ray of the Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association (MCWA) reported to the Wyoming County Commissioners on Tuesday morning that a planned $400,000 project in Roger Hollow, Forkston Township, was in jeopardy due to a $42,000 gap in available funds. The ten percent deficit would not just force the organization to scale back their plans for bank stabilization and stream flow mitigation but would likely delay their efforts if a new engineering study is required.

Ray was steered to the commissioners by Rep. Karen Boback and Sen. Lisa Baker in hopes of procuring some Act 13 funding for the project. The commissioners in turn suggested that the MCWA share their concerns with Forkston Township officials, the county’s Conservation District and PEMA, noting that the latter routinely addresses stream remediation issues. Solicitor Paul Litwin also recommended that Ray approach any natural gas companies working in the area for financial assistance.

In recent years, the MCWA has worked with various agencies to secure funding for several projects to improve the flow and enhance aquatic habitat of the two branches of Mehoopany Creek that meet near the intersection of Route 87 and Windy Valley Road. Unlike the horseshoe-shaped waterfalls that were constructed near Forkston Corners, the new project will involve a series of wing dams to stave erosion and slow the current. Ray explained that the MCWA has already paid for an engineering study and hopes to avoid the cost of a new one.

Commissioner Tom Henry suggested that getting a larger number of parties to collaborate would lesson the burden on each and invited Ray to return to the board with a report on his progress, at which time the commissioners would look at what options they might have to close the gap.

Planning Commission Board Now Full

Wyoming County Planner Lynnelle Welch stopped by the commissioners meeting to seek approval of the board for the appointment of Matt Austin to fill the last vacant seat on the Planning Commission. Approval was unanimous, with the commissioners referring to Austin, who has a background in energy services and property management, as “very professional.”

Welch also asked the board for funding to erect a split rail fence at the end of the Iroquois Trail east of Tunkhannock. Some sort of barrier is needed, she explained, to prevent trail users from trespassing.

The trail appears to continue,” Welch related, “but it is not improved and leads to private property.” Welch has volunteers committed to the installation of the terminus but hoped to secure up to $300 for materials.

The ongoing question surrounding the trail, the construction of which was a joint effort between the Northern Tier Progress Authority, the county’s Industrial Development Association (IDA), and the Wyoming County Parks & Recreation Committee, is “whose trail is it?” Technically, the trail runs across county-owned land, and the county has been maintaining it due to the its proximity to the Emergency Operations Center and availability of equipment.

Currently, the Parks and Trails group exists in name only, and the IDA convenes only when needed. Welch would like to bring all parties to the table, including those who have shown an interest in rebuilding the Parks & Recreation Committee to reach an agreement on who will assume responsibility for the trail and see to its completion.

Fair Housing Resolution Signed

Though the commissioners approved and signed the annual Fair Housing resolution proposed by the Wyoming County Housing & Redevelopment Authority, as well as a $3,480 invoice for housing rehab, they again expressed mistrust at how the agency works with the county. Henry expected H&RA grants administrator Lisa Hahn to be at the meeting and intended to make it clear to her that he doesn’t like the way she directs matters to him.

She sends me things via email to sign, and I keep telling her that I have to put it before the board,” Henry remarked.

Bridge Discussed at PUC Hearing

In his Solicitors Report, Litwin reported that he had testified on behalf of the county at a recent Public Utilities Commission meeting about the poor condition of a bridge on Station Hill Road that was last refurbished in 1951. At that time, the county and Nicholson Borough shared the cost, but the rules for bridge stewardship have changed greatly since then. The PUC, for example, is now involved wherever a bridge goes over a railroad. Litwin expressed his hope that PennDOT and Norfolk Southern Railroad will foot the bill to repair the bridge, which is currently restricted to one lane of traffic.

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