In 2009, the former Luzerne County Board of Commissioners in an effort to balance the General Fund budget, removed all levee maintenance from the budget. This action required the Authority to develop a separate funding mechanism that provided the revenue to support our maintenance and operation activities. On April 21, 2009, the Authority Board approved a Resolution to impose a system of flood protection fees.
The Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act provides the ability “to fix, alter, charge and collect rates and other charges in the area served by its facilities at reasonable and uniform rates to be determined exclusively by it for the purpose of providing payment of the expenses of the authority, the construction, improvement, repair, maintenance and operation of its facilities and properties.”
The fee is imposed on all improved residential, commercial, industrial and tax-exempt (CIT) properties that are located within the Susquehanna River floodplain as defined by the 1972 Tropical Storm Agnes flood event. It is these properties that directly receive our flood protection services. Within days after the event, field surveyors delineated the limits of the Agnes flood inundation area. This 1972 flood map indicates all properties that were impacted by the Agnes flood event. Vacant land, which does not contain an insurable improvement, is not subject to the fee.
The Authority does not have the legal ability to impose the fee on the entire County. In accordance with the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act, the fee can only be imposed on those properties that are in the area served by our flood risk management facilities. This is defined as those properties that were flooded as a result of the 1972 Agnes flood event.
In December 2014, in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County, Municipality of Kingston et al. v. Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority, Judge Richard M Hughes, III, ruled that the Authority’s levee fee enacted by the Authority’s April 21, 2009 Resolution is valid.
The WVFRMP is a large, dynamic and complex civil engineering system that includes 16-miles of levees and floodwalls, 78 drainage structures, 123 relief wells, 20 closure structures, 13 pump stations with 39 deep well pumps, and an electrical distribution system that consists of 8 substations, 27 transformers and 9 miles of underground and aerial transmission lines. The system also contains the Toby Creek Impoundment Basin which is a 28’ high, 4,506’ long earthen dam, and the 16’-6” diameter by 1.2 mile long Toby Creek underground pressure conduit. The fee covers the annual operation and maintenance expenses of the WVFRMP (payroll, benefits, utilities, insurance, materials & supplies, tools, fuel, equipment maintenance and replacement, professional services, capital improvement projects, etc.). No fees are applied to the public recreational amenities that are indirectly provided by the flood risk management project.
The flood protection system in the Wyoming Valley started as a response to the Susquehanna River flooding of March 1936. The Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project, which occurred from the mid-1990’s to the early 2000’s, raised the level of protection 3 to 5 feet and was undertaken to prevent a recurrence of an Agnes-level flood event. In September 2011, the Tropical Storm Lee flood event resulted in the historic peak river crest of 42.66 feet, or 1.75 feet above the Agnes flood crest. Despite the system being subjected to a flood event greater than what it was designed for, the project performed as designed and flood damages to the protected areas were minimal. It is estimated that, since 1968, over $7.5 billion in flood damages have been prevented due to the operation of the WVFRMP.
The annual fees are based on six (6) property categories as follows:
It is now 20 years since segments of the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project have been completed and turned over to the Authority. In order to maintain the integrity of the system in accordance with United States Army Corps of Engineers standards, capital improvement investments are being planned, scheduled and implemented. In order for the Authority to adopt a responsible and sustainable budget, anticipated revenue from the levee fee must be balanced against forecasted expenditures.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance requirements are based on a flood event with a 1% chance of occurrence in any year (100-Year Flood). The Agnes flood plain was a larger flood event (approximately 300-Year Flood) that impacted a larger area than the FEMA flood plain.
Please notify the Authority in writing to, P.O. Box 1909, Kingston, PA 18704, and state the specific complaint. The Authority will work with our professional consultants to investigate the condition and update the property records as necessary. However, it is the ultimate responsibility of the property owner, not the Authority, to inform all applicable government agencies of any change to property records and mailing addresses.
It is strongly recommended that any levee fee appeal be accompanied with any photographs or other substantiating information that helps support your claim. Simply stating that the property was not in the flood is not sufficient for the Authority to have it removed from the levee fee database. If you feel that your property was not within the floodplain of the 1972 Agnes Flood event, you may complete a Levee Fee Appeal Form and submit this document to the Authority. Your claim will be investigated by the Authority and you will receive a written response. A copy of this document can be found by clicking here.