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August 24, 2016
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Engineer position eliminated from conservation district; Pike’s ‘environmental protection will suffer’

PIKE COUNTY, PA — The Pike County Conservation District (PCCD) is “trying to regroup” following the recent loss of several employees from the leanly staffed agency. While resource conservationist Marci Barrows left to take work elsewhere, Glenn Eby learned on December 20 that his position as District Engineer would terminate by December 31 as a result of budget decisions made by the Pike County Commissioners.

The matter was discussed at the PCCD monthly meeting on January 23. PCCD executive director Susan Beecher said elimination of the position had come as a surprise. “The commissioners were very supportive in the past in taking on the cost of this engineer because we felt that the local conservation district employee had a better handle on the resources and the issues in Pike County. Also, it allowed us to do concurrent reviews for bigger projects, so it was more efficient in terms of the reviews.”

According to Beecher, loss of the position will mean that officials with less familiarity of Pike County will be reviewing the post-construction stormwater plans for projects.
“It’s a step backward,” she said. “Our engineer would visit the site so that he had a firsthand knowledge of its resources. He also coordinated his reviews with our erosion and sediment control reviews so that we were doing the reviews as a team. The more technical staff that are involved in a review, the better the review.”

Eby was also responsible for inspections of post-construction stormwater facilities in the field. “He found numerous instances that the facilities were not being constructed according to the plans,” said Beecher. “Now it’s going to be incumbent on the applicants and their engineers who are not always on the site and not necessarily doing public interest inspections to make sure the projects get built according to the plans. I believe that environmental protection will suffer.”

Beecher said that Eby’s work on projects such as PPL’s powerline expansion and Quarry Heights, a large residential subdivision in Shohola, was exceptional. “He was really good at spotting problems with stormwater facilities that weren’t functioning properly,” she said. “That’s where the county will suffer. He was performing a public service by looking out for the public interest.”

In explanation of the decision to eliminate the position, Pike County Commissioner Richard Caridi said, “We had to make some very hard financial decisions to balance the county’s budget.”
“Publicly, I want to say that I’m very disappointed,” said PCCD treasurer Linda Cioppa.

“It’s a real loss,” added Beecher. “He was a very technically capable engineer and a very conscientious employee.”

In other matters, PCCD has submitted comments on the FERC environmental assessment for the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Upgrade Project. “They were relying on many of the same erosion and sediment control practices that didn’t work on the 300 Line Project,” said Beecher. “I sent a lengthy comment focused on the erosion and sedimentation issues.

There’s an enormous amount of impervious surface added for access roads that doesn’t seem to get much attention on these projects.”

The next meeting of the PCCD board of directors will be held at 9 a.m. on February 27 at the district office, 556 Route 402 in Hawley, PA. The public is welcome. Visit www.pikeconservation.org or call 570/226-8220 for more information.