County Officials, Army Corps Meet to Discuss Stream

Washington PA Observer Reporter
22 November 2013
By Francesca Sacco, Staff Writer

Lisa Cessna hoped Friday’s meeting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would help Washington County Planning Commission develop a plan of action for a three-mile stretch of Burgetts Fork in Burgettstown.

Recently, the planning commission learned that four areas along the stream have been declared unacceptable by the corps. Lenna Hawkins, deputy for programs and project management for the corps in Pittsburgh, said that as long as the conditions of these areas remain unacceptable, the county is no longer considered active in the corps’ rehabilitation project.

“They are not eligible for flood rehabilitation,” she said. “In the event of a flood, they can’t come to us to fix it.”

Built-up sediment, vegetation growth and erosion were the reasons the four areas were deemed unacceptable. During the 1950s, Washington County, among other counties, entered into a partnership with the corps to maintain certain stream areas. Because those sections of Burgetts Fork are now deemed unacceptable, the county has fallen behind on its part of the agreement.

Cessna, executive director of the planning commission, said she hoped the meeting, which was orchestrated by U.S. Rep Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, would help the county put together a mitigation plan to correct the problems.

“We were hoping to be able to accomplish milestones and dates to accomplish it,” she said. “We were hoping to spread this all out, but that is not an option. We have to act now.”

Hawkins said additional areas eventually will receive the same “unacceptable” designation.

County Commissioner Harlan Shober said the commissioners were unaware of any problems with the conditions of the stream until recently. Shober said that before a plan of action could be made, the county needed to meet with representatives from the corps.

“We needed to start here to know what our options are and to develop a plan,” Shober said. “As I understand, we can work closely with the (corps) to address the issues. Our main concern is to protect the residents.”

Shober and Cessna were concerned with liability, access to properties along the stream and funding. Shober said the process could be very costly and time-consuming.

“We need a comprehensive plan,” said Shober. “I’m not sure where the money will come from, but we will cross that bridge as it comes.”

While there are many issues that need to be addressed, Hawkins said that once the four areas are improved, they will be re-evaluated and the county could be returned to the program. Hawkins said the problem is not specific to Washington County.

“Other counties across the state and country are going through the same things,” she said. “This is about the safety of the residents. That’s why we have these standards.”