U.S. Army Corps and City Water Department say study on Eastwick flooding solutions should be complete in October

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Philadelphia Water Department say a study to determine the solution or solutions for Eastwick’s Cobbs Creek-related flooding problems will be finished in October.

Among the solutions the study will consider: A berm or floodwall along Cobbs Creek between 78th and 80th streets, near the city rec center.

The Corps and PWD are now finalizing a statement of work – basically a list of tasks that must be completed during the study – said Erik Rourke, strategic planner for the Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District. Rourke is optimistic that this document will be in place by the end of the month, and both he and PWD Deputy Commissioner Christopher Crockett said the study it calls for would be completed by October to coincide with the completion of an Environmental Protection Agency plan to remediate the Clearview Landfill.

The PWD and Army Corps are coordinating their work with the EPA’s work, Crockett said.

“Basically consider it a feasibility study to look at ways we can jointly address the Clearview Landfill and flooding situation since Cobbs Creek comes up out of its banks to flood Eastwick at the same location,” Crockett said.

Rourke noted that a berm or other structure would have to extend onto the Clearview site, which is one reason why coordination is so important. Crockett said synchronizing this study with the timing of the EPA’s work means the projects to to stem flooding of the creek and clean up the Superfund site “can be designed simultaneously and in conjunction with one another so when construction begins they can both be done at the same time.”

Part of determining which solution is best will be examining the hydrology and hydraulics of the site and modeling potential solutions, Rourke said. The study must also consider impact of any possible solution on people living downstream, he said, as pushing flooding onto someone else isn’t allowed.

Rourke said the partners are still finalizing the estimated cost of the study, so he could not provide that number yet.

Determining the amount of time and money needed to build a solution to Cobbs Creek flooding will be part of the feasibility study, he said.

The money must be lined up before construction can begin. “The challenge … once the studies are done and the designs begin, is identifying funding sources to pay for the construction from federal, state or local sources,” Crockett said.

“The flooding issue needs to be addressed for this community and we are working as fast as the programs and processes at the state and federal levels allow us, which requires a study and a design before funding for construction can be made available.”

The study phase that will be completed in October can be the most time consuming part of a project, Rourke said. “Once we get through the study phase, the design and construction – assuming funding is not an issue – is a lot easier.”

The offices of District Two Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and State Sen. Anthony Williams have been involved in the process, Crockett said, to help keep communication with the Eastwick community open.
The issue of flooding in Eastwick came to a head in City Council chambers this past summer, when developer Korman Residential sought zoning changes that would have allowed the construction of a 722-unit apartment complex near the John Heinz Refuge.

Residents said building on the now-vacant, city-owned parcel Korman has held development rights on for decades would exacerbate flooding problems in the city. While both Korman and water department officials said the development would actually have to improve conditions created by storm water run off in order to get a building permit, residents were unconvinced.  Some council members were angry not because of the flooding concerns, but because of a related legal deal. Other council members called for a hearing on the flooding.

At that hearing, water department officials testified that there were various causes for Eastwick flooding, and that the biggest one was the overflow of the creek. That began discussions with the Army Corps.

At a later community meeting, Councilman Johnson announced he no longer supported any legislation that would give Korman the zoning changes it needs to build the apartment community. Korman could build single-family residences on the site without any zoning relief.

Reach the reporter at kgates@planphilly.com

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal