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Weissport levee in danger

Published July 20. 2011 05:02PM

Weissport Council needs funding to save the town from potential flooding should the levee breach anytime in the future.

Council was informed about the costs to repair the levee by Arland Moyer, council member, who said that he had spoken with Bob Eckhart, emergency management coordinator with the Army Corps of Engineers, that the cost to repair the levee is $201,200, and that Weissport's share is $38,663.

Moyer said that the levee repair project is under review by the Army Corps of Engineers for funding, but that Weissport likely will have to apply for its share from the state because the borough does not have the matching funds.

Some areas of the thick wall of dirt and rocks that surrounds Weissport on three sides was built in 1934 by Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers to save the tiny borough from the ravaging waters of the Lehigh River. A second section of levee wall was added following flood water in 1956 or 1957, said council members.

WPA employed millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads.

Weissport flooded in August 1955. The events leading to the flooding began on Aug. 14 when Hurricane Connie saturated the region with a lot of rain. Then, about four or five days later, Hurricane Diane arrived as a tropical storm with more rain. The result was flooding so bad that most of the town of Weissport was evacuated.

The levee is currently in poor shape following the March 10-11 high-water event. Up to four inches of rain led to flooding of the Lehigh Canal, the Lehigh River, and the washing away of sections of the towpath. The Lehigh River crested at nearly 25,000 cubic feet per second in the early morning hours of Friday, March 11. The Lehigh River begins overflowing its banks at approximately 15,000 cfs. The river's flow exceeded that rate for about 12 hours, from late Thursday, March 10 to midday on Friday, March 11.

"We have to keep a watch on the levee," said Moyer. "It could breach in another high-water event. If we see a depression forming in the levee, we are to contact the Army Corps of Engineers right away."

Council adopted the Property Maintenance Code. The code provides "teeth" to force residents to repair unsafe structures and homes, cut weeds, control rodents, clean up defaced property, maintain swimming pools, repair decks and porches, keep homes free of rubbish and garbage, limit occupancy, and maintain homes for fire safety and having a means of egress.

The new ordinance will also provide for fines and enforcement.

As part of the enforcement section of the ordinance, Mayor Jonathon Troutman was appointed to enforce the ordinance, plus council authorized Troutman to name deputies to assist with the enforcement of the code.

Council also discussed having a community service person assist with providing handicapped access to sidewalks in the borough park at the intersection of Franklin and Park, Allen and Park and White and Park streets.

Council also discussed hiring a second part-time borough worker to work unspecified hours.

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