Every year, Tioga County landowners lose their homes and property to stream erosion and flooding, causing tons of sediments to enter the county’s waterways. Such events and processes alter the composition and energy of streams, compromising their water quality. These changes bear a toll on the health of aquatic habitats and local communities that depend on this water for consumption and domestic purposes.
Attempting to address these stream-related hurdles, the Tioga County Conservation District established the Streambank Stabilization Cost-share Program to stabilize eroded streams that traverse, or neighbor threatened properties. For seven years, the conservation district worked with partners and contractors to implement structures that change the flow, slope, and energy of high-risk streams to reduce erosion and flooding. Such projects comprise anchoring logs and mudsills to stabilize the streambank, establishing natural structures to harbor aquatic habitats, and planting vegetation along the banks to hold soil in place.
The Tioga County Conservation District has completed more than 20 stream stabilization projects under this program, reducing sediment runoff and lessening the disastrous effects of flood events. But now, the conservation district fears it might not be able to continue such crucial projects due to a lack of funding. The Royal Dutch Shell, which had provided half of the program’s funding until last year, terminated sponsorship when they sold their Pennsylvania assets. The conservation district had already been dealing with limited funds even with financial support from Shell, asking landowners to cover 50% of the project’s cost to spread funding and allow for the completion of more projects, costing approx. $10,000. Now the whole program is compromised.
Without the Streambank Stabilization Cost-share Program, Tioga landowners would face higher risks during flood events, losing more homes, businesses, and properties than in previous years. Thousands of sediments would continue flowing into Tioga waterways and downstream, making downstream communities more susceptible to flooding while impairing their water quality and hindering recreational fishing and other forms of tourism. Funding these types of projects is crucial for the health of Pennsylvania waterways and, with that, the safety and wellbeing of Pennsylvanians. Green infrastructure projects like the Streambank Stabilization Program are not expenditures; they are cost-effective, sustainable investments that return countless benefits to local and downstream communities for decades to come.