Stream maintenance package proposed in House

Submitted Photo Workers are pictured working in a stream. A package of legislation introduced in the state House of Representatives would allow local governments to have more say in stream maintenance.

An eight-bill package of stream maintenance legislation has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.

The package is supported by several House Republicans, including Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter, including House Bill 2404, sponsored by Owlett, to allow allow for local government organizations to apply for a permit for continuing maintenance for a period of at least 10 years for the streams within their jurisdiction. This permit will grant an affirmative duty to the local government entity to properly maintain the streams and will not require the local government to get pre-approval for maintenance projects.

Owlett said the combination of bills will clarify which stream maintenance activities do and do not need pre-approval from the Department of Environmental Protection and also make it clear which agencies do and do not have authority over the process.

Other bills in the package include:

¯ House Bill 2405, sponsored by Rep. Tina Pickett, R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna, that allows counties to opt in to address hazards within their streams by allowing for emergency maintenance permits in consultation with their county conservation district.

¯ House Bill 2406, spnsored by Rep. Jonathan Fritz, R-Wayne/Susquehanna, to create a permit specific to smaller maintenance projects for the mitigation of flood-related hazards of less than 250 linear feet. The permit would be reviewed and issued by the local county conservation district.

¯ House Bill 2407, sponsored by Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Lycoming/Union, nto clarify that the state Fish and Boat Commission has no authority for permitting or enforcement related to stream clearing or maintenance activities. This authority shall belong solely to the Department of Environmental Protection and the county conservation districts as appropriate.

¯ House Bill 2408, sponsored by Rep. Mike Armanini, R-Clearfield/Elk, declaring that no permit or authorization shall be required for maintenance activities conducted on a culvert.

¯ House Bill 2409, sponsored by Rep. Timothy O’Neal, R-Washington, saying no permit shall be required for the removal of flood-related hazards from streams that are deemed to be an emergency by a state or county.

¯ House Bill 2410, sponsored by Rep. Brian Smith, R-Jefferson/Indiana, saying no permit shall be required for stream maintenance activities conducted 50 feet or less upstream or downstream of a bridge or culvert.

¯ House Bill 2411, sponsored by Rep. Johnathan Hershey, R-Juniata/Franklin/Mifflin, requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to issue an annual report to the General Assembly regarding flooding and stream maintenance and restoration

“The ability of local government organizations to be able to maintain the streams and waterways in their area is vital to preserve the integrity of bridges and culverts, stream channels, and possibly most importantly, to prevent flooding which can significantly damage homes and threaten lives and livelihoods,” Owlett wrote in his legislative memorandum. “Unfortunately, because of the numerous different agencies that can be involved, and the time it takes those agencies to review requests, it can be very difficult to get approval to do the necessary work. These delays and denials have real world consequences in our districts. Our local officials know the work that needs to be done to protect their citizens and their property, and it has been very frustrating for them to be prevented from doing so.”


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