Patton residents ‘lucky’ flooding wasn’t worse

PATTON — After a week of cleanup from heavy rain runoff and Little Chest Creek flooding, Patton Borough Councilman David Pompa said residents are “lucky” it wasn’t worse.

“We were lucky. We were really lucky,” he said. “Everybody talks about taking the dam out, but they got to really think about what happens when you do take the dam out.”

Pompa said borough officials would have to complete an engineering study to determine what precautions they would have to take before possibly removing the dam.

“Anytime we have to do anything around here, you have to have an engineer come around and do a study and then you have to get quotes on getting you job done. That’s the state’s guidelines,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who are angry over the fact that we had a disaster. You can’t control that, and you just gotta put your efforts together to clean up and move forward.”

Pompa said he was not nervous about a possible dam breach Monday night.

“Every dam around was inspected — and bridges — and our dam passed with flying colors. But I believe, what I read, it’s 6 to 8 feet deep … because of all the silt and debris that comes down with water. It builds at that place,” Pompa said. “Years from now, it might only be

4 or 5 feet deep, which means it will flood even quicker.”

Pompa said he expects residents will be divided — those in favor because of the Little Chest Creek flooding and those against it because of environment and recreation concerns — on whether council should take action to possibly have the dam removed.

“There’s a lot of things that people would need to take into account. If there were no more floods in this town, I’d be all for it. But you can’t predict the future; floods are floods. We are extremely lucky that this is the only event we had in the past 20 years. It wasn’t the dam that caused this at all,” Pompa said of Mellon Avenue flooding. “Whatever rain’s up in Loretto, Ebensburg, Carroll­town, all comes down our valley. When we have an event like this, we just have to be vigilant and get in and clean up — neighbor helping neighbor — do everything you can and move forward.”

Pompa said Chest Creek’s water level would drop if the dam is taken out.

“The first animals that’ll realize it will be the beavers. So, when the water starts going down, what do you think they’re going to do? They’re gonna dam it up,” he said. “So, it’s gonna all be dammed up because we have one huge beaver population. People don’t realize what’s up there. Environmentally, it would be a disaster.”

“There’s huge wetlands in there … and it’s full of wildlife and aquatic life. So, drain the dam, you’ll drain that. That’s always important to everything. That’s the life structure back there for a lot of things we have here.”

He said Borough Council members are hoping to have Cambria County Conservation District officials dredge Little Chest Creek along Moose Avenue where trailers are parked.

“We’re looking into that. We’ve already talked to them about doing that. (Department of Environ­mental Protection) regulations forbid anybody from driving a machine — like a bulldozer or anything like that — into the water,” Pompa said.”

He said a machine would have to sit on the bank and pull debris out of Little Chest Creek. But nothing has been decided.

“If that debris was gone, and that bank was built up, chances are, Moose Avenue wouldn’t have flooded.”

Although it did not rain as heavily on Friday, it did stop an event to benefit replacement of the Patton pool’s pump motor. The event was to be held at the Patton park and hosted by the Friends of Patton Park nonprofit organization.

Mark Stephens, the organization’s founder, said money would have been raised for the pool through concessions and a pie-in-the-face event. Local band Nag Champions would have played for free.

“We were also going to have a horseshoe tournament and scavenger hunt for young kids,” Stephens said. “We would have tried to make money off of the pie-in-the-face and the concessions. Just those two things alone could’ve latched up to, I would say, $200 easily right there,” he said.

Stephens said the rainy weather “put a dampener of our fundraising abilities,” but he will attend an Aug. 14 Borough Council meeting to give council members a donation toward funding the pool.