Disaster relief is not only a matter of picking up the pieces from the last severe storm or event, but looking at ways to prevent some of the problems the next time. State lawmakers heard that message this week as they talked about the idea of a state disaster assistance fund. They’re considering a fund that would help in recovery, when the threshold for federal aid is not reached.
Any discussion of a small disaster program should also focus on prevention according to David Sanko, director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors. He told a joint hearing of the state House and Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committees that if municipalities could take preventative action like cleaning out streams and rivers, many flooding disasters could be reduced or eliminated.
Sanko says the current state Department Environmental Protection process to obtain an emergency permit should be streamlined so that a municipality can go in and take corrective action before, and not after a disaster occurs. He says the buildup of gravel bars and other items in the stream bed can occur quickly, and increase the possibility of flood damage and its severity.
Sanko says they also recommend DEP amend its regulations to develop a process to preauthorize emergency issuance of all general permits needed to allow municipalities to remove all impediments, such as fallen trees or gravel bars which occur suddenly. He says DEP should consider using flood prevention money to pay for stream cleanup that they oversee and control. He says local governments should not have to go through the permitting process, and then foot the bill to alleviate flooding hazards in their community.
Sanko says it’s a matter of prioritizing. He says prevention is a lot less expensive than cleanup.