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Harrisburg vows to continue working on flood-prone areas

  • Harrisburg businessman David Crest, who owns Illinois Storage, 815 W. Pine St., addresses city council concerning recent flooding Thursday evening. Crest spoke on behalf of several businessowners who wish to work with the city to continue to reduce potential flooded locations.

    Harrisburg businessman David Crest, who owns Illinois Storage, 815 W. Pine St., addresses city council concerning recent flooding Thursday evening. Crest spoke on behalf of several businessowners who wish to work with the city to continue to reduce potential flooded locations.
    Travis DeNeal photo

  • Harrisburg city engineer Jim Brown explains how the city has worked to improve watershed issues since the late 1980s.

    Harrisburg city engineer Jim Brown explains how the city has worked to improve watershed issues since the late 1980s.
    Travis DeNeal photo

 
BY TRAVIS DENEAL tdeneal@dailyregister.com
updated: 5/19/2017 8:10 AM

HARRISBURG -- Several city businessowners approached the Harrisburg council Thursday, asking for continued efforts in reducing the likelihood of flooded areas in the future.

David Crest, who with his wife, Jamie, owns Illinois Storage at 815 W. Pine St., said recent flooding has cost his business in the form of lost income.

"We had a minimum amount of physical damage this last round, but we've had a loss of income from renters moving out due to the flooding. They had damage to their items in storage," Crest said.

Crest is asking that the city place a freeze on any new commercial building within a flood zone inside city limits until flooding is reduced. He also asks that the city keep businessowners and residents informed of past flooding problems, current status of flood mitigation projects and future related developments.

In addition, he wants to ensure that the city work with all governmental entities who may be able to help with flood issues or projects and ask local legislators for assistance with flood projects.

Harrisburg businesswoman Roxanne Nicholes also approached the council and said she had owned property in the Gaskins City area for about 30 years. She said she had two buildings that were in the flooded area after recent heavy rains, but that prior to about 2008 that area of town had not experienced significant flooding. She said she believes that as a result of changing the watershed in that part of the city, improvements may have been made at the expense of her locations.

"I think the city should help, because I think the city kind of added to the problem," Nicholes said. "I felt like we were the sacrificial lamb."

Amanda Hunt, who with her husband owns Bright Beginnings Learning Daycare in the Bonan Business Center, said her business had to close when floodwaters got too high. She said currently she employs about 18 people and serves about 120 pre-school age children. When her business was forced to close, it caused a hardship on many parents, she said.

"When we had to close down at the last minute, they had to either call in to work or make other arrangements," Hunt said of her clients.

Because the council knew business owners were dissatisfied, Mayor John McPeek had asked city engineer Jim Brown to explain what projects the city had undertaken to reduce flooding. Brown, sometimes referring to a map showing the city's two watersheds -- West Harrisburg and Pankey Branch -- explained that serious efforts to reduce flooding have been undertaken since 1988 under the mayorship of Robert Wilson.

Among solutions for flood-prone areas are dry impoundments, in which a parcel of land is used to collect rainwater. Large-diameter tiles, or pipes, allow water to enter. The rainwater collected can only leave through much smaller-diameter pipes. The size of the large pipes allow them to contain a good deal of water, and the small diameter of the pipes from which they drain reduces the speed at which water will flow to lower-lying areas.

"The dry impoundments are the easiest to operate," Brown said.

They must be maintained to ensure proper water flow during times of heavy rain, he said. The city has two such dry impoundments, which Brown said have helped significantly reduce flooding. Acquiring property for dry impoundments can be an issue, Brown said.

Commissioner Beth Montfort asked him if he thought the city needed more such impoundments.

"I would say these people here would say we need more dry impoundments," Brown said, indicating the group of businessowners present.

McPeek told the businessowners present that he intended to continue the city's work on reducing flooded areas. He urged anyone with concerns about the city's progress on flooding issues to contact him.