Did township road work cause major flooding for property owner?

Investigations

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – For several months, Deb and Gary Mullen have been dealing with major flooding on their property in Dickinson Township, in Cumberland County. They believe road work done by the township is to blame.

“We have never, until this road was done, had this kind of flow through our pasture. The water stays ponded up for a week or so in our pasture,” said Gary Mullen

North Dickinson School Road runs in front of the Mullen’s property. The township fixed and widened the road and also addressed flooding.

“They changed the drainage, they added a larger culvert. They decided to run all the water to the middle of this long area and outlet it through our property,” said Gary Mullen.

The Yellow Breeches Creek runs on one side the Mullen’s property and a raceway runs on the other side. Gary says they had some flooding in the past after large amounts of rain, but since the road work was done, it has been worse. He says flooding on West Yellow Breeches Road, which leads to their house, has also increased. 

“We’ve had to put new brakes and rotors on our van and pickup truck last year from having to drive through the water,” said Gary Mullen. “One time, we had one inch of rain and we couldn’t get in or out of our road for two days.”

Gary has complained to Dickinson Township.

“They have never brought forth substantial evidence that the road has caused the flooding,” township manager Larry Barrick Jr. said.

Barrick says the township consulted with an engineering firm as well as the county conservation district for the North Dickinson School Road project. 

“There is a swell that goes through his property that is meant to carry water,” said Barrick. 

At one time, the plans did include diverting some of the water to the nearby raceway.

“Which would have required some pretty significant permitting fees through the Department of Environmental Protection. It is very costly to get the permits to outlet into the waterways of Pennsylvania,” said Barrick. “The engineers indicated that once it floods, that piping would be inoperable.”

Barrick said a complaint about the project was filed with the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We met them on site and there were no violations noted,” said Barrick.

Barrick believes the high water table is behind the excessive flooding on Mullen’s property.

“We are well over 65 inches of rainfall last year, which is unheard of for this area,” he said. “We get calls sometimes on a weekly or daily basis from residents saying, ‘hey, can you guys figure out what’s going on here because we’ve got water we have never had before’. I believe wholeheartedly that once these rains decide to slow down a little bit, we are going to be relieved of a lot of the headaches we have right now.” 

South Middleton, Penn, and West Pennsboro townships, which are neighboring municipalities to Dickinson Township, have also experienced excessive flooding over the past year.

Dickinson Township has been reconstructing its roads over the past five years, spending close to $1 million each year. The North Dickinson School Road project cost $240,000.

“There is no heavy traffic on the road, so typically, this road would have had a basecoat put on it and a new top coat and possibly some aprons on the shoulder of the new road. We feel it was a poor use of public funds,” said Mullen. 

The excessive flooding has taken a toll on the Mullen’s property. Several trees have died and the vegetation on the pasture where they keep their horses has changed.

“We have gone from orchard and timothy grass to different species that aren’t palatable for horses and steers. By and large, we feel like we have been ignored,” said Mullen.
 

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