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Levee provides for safety, quality of life, growth and stability

When the final vote to move forward with local financing for a levee system to protect Lock Haven was tallied at the former Lock Haven High School in 1990 , it did not go over well at all with those opposing the project.

A “Tea Party” had been formed as talk of a levee developed.

Some pro-levee officials on Lock Haven City Council reported receiving threats.

The mayor at the time — in one of the more civil protests against the projetct — was sent black roses.

Nonethess, it was a time of angst and divisiveness as a faction of city leaders, property owners and residents adamantly opposed the levee and wanted the banks of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River to stay as they were.

“No” said a larger faction of city leaders, residents and property owners.

They staked their local political careers on their firm belief that Lock Haven needed — had to have — flood protection to help secure its future.

A levee had been under consideration, afterall, since the devastating flood of 1972, when heavy rain from Hurricane Agnes caused the river to poor into the city, inundating the downtown business district and many homes.

City leaders commissioned studies into the feasibility and design of a levee, enlisting the help of an advisory committee.

Eventually, the levee was built in three phases over three years.

It was dedicated on Oct. 14, 1994.

That 25-year anniversary was marked during a brief ceremony yesterday, Oct. 14, 2019.

Vision is a wonderful thing.

We applaud “The Five” who voted in 1990 to provide a bond issue for the local share ($4.4 million) of the levee cost ($70 million): Mayor Diann Stuempfle, June Houser, Al Hoberman, George Shade and Joe Nevins.

Without a doubt, they brought “protection from the ravaging floods” of the river and “economic stability and future growth” to the city, words that are forever engraved on a monument at the dedication site at Water and Jay streets along the river.

Since its completion, the levee has protected the city from at least three floods that we’re aware of: The winter of 1996; Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.

Imagine no levee, a rising river and water pouring over Water Street into the city today?

That happened time and again over the decades prior to 1994.

Ride through the city and you can still see homes on stilts.

Monday’s initial speaker Terry Shultz, who chairs the Lock Haven Area Flood Protection Authority, talked of the levee facilitating economic benefits through new development unfettered by floodplain restrictions, much reduced if not elimnated (and very expensive) flood insurance premiums and policies.

And then there are the recreational benefits: A wonderful and scenic river walk; a floating stage in front of a massive amphitheatre for concerts; a public swimming beach with restrooms; an overlook; a public boat launch across the river in Woodward Township, and a subsequent 13-acre public park appropriately named Riverview Park.

As Terry said, the levee has certainly “proven its worth.”

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