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Evans City appeals to residents for access to reduce flood risk

EVANS CITY — A councilman on Monday night invited residents with concerns about flood risk to their properties to ask the borough for help.

Borough council is working to reduce flooding hazards throughout the community, but said many sites at risk lie on properties beyond its reach. To gain access to those sites, Councilman Mark R. Widdersheim is encouraging resident participation.

Several key sites lie on private property, including a former railroad site owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In order to mitigate flooding at these sites, the borough would need permission from owners of the properties to do the work.

“It’s not common property,” said Widdersheim, also an engineer who serves as chairman for stormwater planning in the borough.

“We need access,” he said. “If we need to do something in Breakneck (Creek), to remove debris in Breakneck, we need permission to come onto your property, which means we need a drainage way or riparian buffer easement in order to get in there to do anything.

“Otherwise we’re not going to spend our tax dollars, on your property,” Widdersheim said. “It’s yours to clean up.”

Riparian buffers are vegetated areas near streams that help reduce hazards such as flooding, while an easement is a path that crosses someone else’s property as part of an agreement with the landowner.

Property owners who would like the council to do mitigation work on their sites can start that process by requesting an easement from the council, he said.

“The actual easement preparation work would be handed over to our engineer for survey/mapping and a legal professional for an easement description,” Widdersheim said Tuesday.

Borough solicitor Bonnie Brimmeier said approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns much of the property along the creek, can take time.

Expanded mitigation efforts, if approved, could parallel a region-wide effort to reduce flooding throughout southwestern Butler County. That effort, called the Lower Connoquenessing Watershed Group, includes leaders from Harmony, Evans City, Lancaster Township, Adams Township, Forward Township and Seven Fields.

The Lower Connoquenessing Watershed Group plans improvements to storm sewers and catch basins scheduled over the course of 10 years. It aims to clear storm debris that clog waterways and protect homes near those waterways from flooding.

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