State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

No Simple Solution for College Avenue Flash Flooding

by on July 10, 2014 6:30 AM

There isn't a simple solution to the dangerous flash flooding seen on College Avenue a few times each summer.

The flooding occurs in the 1000 block of East College Avenue near the Blaise Alexander car dealership and Your Building Center.

Significant flooding occurred Tuesday during a heavy rainstorm. Watch video of Tuesday's flooding below:


While local officials are aware of the issue there doesn't seem to be an easy fix, according to an October report drafted by Penn State's Office of Physical Plant.

At issue is the Thompson Run Watershed in College and Ferguson townships and State College Borough. The majority of Thompson Run comes from Thompson Spring, which flows around the university's duck pond, along the engineered conveyance channel along College Avenue and then to Millbrook Marsh, according to the report.

For at least 30 years, local officials and community members had worked to develop a solution to flooding on College Avenue, with numerous public meetings and studies.

"Since no resolution has ever been come up with, even though the flooding creates manpower requirements and poses a significant life safety issue, the correct answer to the problem is likely to be what no one wants to hear," the report says.

The answer could be forcing either the car dealership or building store to move and placing the site in a flood plain, the report says.

The issue, the report says, is the culvert is too small and needs to be replaced. "However, that would impact the ability of (Blaise Alexander's) site to provide adequate parking without major alterations to the site, or incurring a large cost for installing a larger culvert."

Additionally, removing the culvert could create issues downstream such as erosion, including at Millbrook Marsh.

"In other words, the flooding alongside College Avenue is likely protecting the downstream channels and marsh from being degraded," the report says. "One needs to weight the repercussions of potentially transferring the problem to different land owners down stream."

Penn State has a particular interest in what happens downstream as due to storm water permits the university holds, the university could be held responsible for issues created downstream.

The report suggests a comprehensive analysis evaluating a flooding peak runoff rate be conducted before removal of the culvert.

"Such an analysis could actually help to show not only what the resulting destabilizing process might be, but it could also help to provide a sense of what would need to be done proper to removing the culvert to prevent destabilizing," the report says. "Once the culvert is removed, it will be very difficult to stop the unraveling of the streambed."

The report says one or both of the Blaise Alexander or Your Building Center sites would need to be removed and returned to flood plain. However, the report says the sites should not be removed until an analysis using sophisticated models is conducted.

Another issue in the Thompson Run Watershed is the sinkhole located under the east bleachers at Memorial Field, which is one of the largest sinkholes in the watershed and has a drainage area of roughly 45 acres, according to the report.

Floodwaters covered the high school field off of West Nittany Avenue after significant rain fell in the area Tuesday.

While State College Borough conducted storm water management enhancements in 2013, the field is still expected to flood temporarily during heavy rainstorms, according to Julie Miller, spokesperson for the State College Area School District.

"The borough did significant work to amend the sinkhole and provide for better and faster drainage, which was successful, but with over five acres within the borough channeling storm water to that sinkhole, the volume of rain dictates the rate of drainage," says Miller. "If it is an average rainstorm, we typically do not see any flooding, but the two high volume incidents over the past few weeks have caused some short-term flooding."

Miller says the recent flooding did not cause damage to the field, but required minor debris clean up.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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