Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics for Community Revitalization

Connellsville, Pennsylvania

Featured image for the project, Assessing Flooding and Hydrodynamics for Community Revitalization

Description

Located 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh in one Pennsylvania’s poorest counties, the residents of Connellsville and Bullskin Township are no strangers to flooding.  The City of Connellsville is bisected by the Youghiogheny River and Bullskin Township is located on the western edge of the Allegheny Mountains.   A storm event on August 28, 2016 dropped over 5 inches of rain on the area, flooding homes, damaging roadways and altering the morphology of streams.  Flooding originates from a variety of sources including overburdened storm and sewer drains, steep surrounding topography, and undermined land from coal mining.  During the late 19th and 20th centuries, Connellsville became known as the “Coke Capital of the World” due to the amount of coke produced in its many beehive ovens.  Mounts Creek, a tributary of the Youghiogheny, heavily foods during storm events impacting the Dutch Bottom area of Connellsville.  Large storm events have dramatically altered the shape and size of streams in the area, pushing water into unwelcomed areas.

Flood Forum for Connellsville City/Connellsville Twp and Bullskin Twp was established after the August 2016 flood as a resource for people affected by the flooding—in the months following the August food, residents used the Facebook page as a forum to help each other with transportation, meals, and to disseminate information.   Connected to this is the Flood Recovery Center, administered by the United Methodist Center on Relief (UMCOR).  The Center dispenses privately donated money and services to aid those recovering from flood damages.  Over 150 cases were filed with the Recovery Center following the historic flooding.  Lumber was donated to rebuild homes and Catholic charities replaced water tanks, furnaces, appliances and cleaning supplies.

Despite the unified community effort to build back, the biggest issue facing Connellsville and Bullskin Township is finding the balance between environmental protection and flood protection.  Residents would like to see banks stabilized and restoration work done on surrounding streams to reduce the damages caused when heavy rains hit.  The flood group finds themselves at odds with regulations set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and would like to learn how to better navigate these priorities.

 

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at Flood Forum for Connellsville City/Connellsville Twp and Bullskin Twp and Flood Forum USA.

Contact

Amy Price, Coordinator of the Flood Recovery Center, and Greg Crossley, local Emergency Management and County Volunteer Organization Active in Disaster (VOAD) Coordinator, will serve as the community leads.  The community leads commit to engaging with the scientific partner on this project and providing strategic direction to ensure that the scientific assessment is in line with their larger vision of flood reduction within Connellsville and Bullskin Townships.

Scientist Wanted

As an initial first step, a scientist is requested for 2 months to work with Connellsville Flood Forum for Connellsville City/Connellsville Twp and Bullskin Twp  to walk the neighborhood with the community leaders, examine and aggregate existing hydrological assessments and create a short write-up summarizing neighborhood-scale vulnerability and describe some next steps to learn more about and/or start mitigating that vulnerability.  These next steps will provide a foundation and refined scope upon which to shape the remainder of this TEX-FFUSA project.

 

Timeline and Outcome

Work will begin as soon as possible (September-October 2017).  The first phase of this project will take approximately 2 months.  Once a refined project scope is identified, the remainder of the project is expected to last 12-16 months.

 

Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Background in hydrology or environmental engineering
  • Understanding of fluvial geomorphology preferred
  • Experience working with historically disadvantaged communities preferred
  • Ability to translate difficult science terminology to a lay audience
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • The scientist should be able to visit the community in-person and able to walk neighborhoods with the community leaders

Collaborating Organization(s)

This project is part of one of TEXs’ new cohorts.  TEX has partnered with Flood Forum USA which supports grassroots flood groups across the country by helping them develop strategies for a sustainable future.  TEX is working with ten of their grassroots groups to connect them with scientists who can help them better characterize neighborhood-level flood risks and work effectively with local decision makers to mitigate those risks. 

Flood Forum USA