WASHINGTON — Congressman Fred Keller (R-Pa. 12) announced the passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), legislation that provides authority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to carry out a feasibility study of the greater Williamsport Levee project.
While WRDA does not authorize funding for the Williamsport Levee, its passage marks a milestone as the U.S. Army Corps can now conduct a feasibility study of the imminent threat the levee poses to Lycoming County’s residence and economy if improvements are not made.
Since its construction in 1955, the greater Williamsport Levee has held back the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Lycoming Creek, protecting Lycoming County and greater Williamsport from economic disaster.
Currently, large sections of the levee are compromised and in need of serious improvements, a release from Keller said. After recent inspection by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), sections of the levee’s relief wall and cross-pipes failed inspection and are at risk of failure without significant rehabilitation.
The flood zone behind the 20-mile levee system is responsible for roughly 87% of the Lycoming County’s economic activity, an area that also employs 45% of the region’s workforce. According to the USACE National Levee Database, more than $4 billion in economic assets, including 24 of the county’s 50 largest employers, are at risk if the levee fails.
Keller has taken action to move the Williamsport Levee project forward, including: Working with the Williamsport community and local officials to build a plan of action and advocate for levee funding; calling the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works to highlight the importance of the Greater Williamsport Levee has to the local community and surrounding areas; testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and meeting with committee staff; providing letters of support for grant funding to various agencies to fund the project; and securing $5.6 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce
“I am pleased to support the passage of the Water Resources Development Act and give the U.S. Army Corps the authority to conduct an extensive study of the Williamsport Levee,” Keller said. “While this is a good start, more needs to be done. We must act quickly to protect the livelihoods that would be lost if we stand idly by. I look forward to continuing to work with federal, state, and local officials to advocate for this critical infrastructure project and bring it across the finish line.”