PINE GROVE, Pa. - Swatara Creek flood water spilling into an open field was a welcome Christmas Eve and Christmas day sight for Schuylkill County engineer Heath Machamer.

"You can see how Swatara Creek flows into the flood plain," he said while filming it on Christmas.

"I was emotional as I had helped friends clean out basements in past flood events," said Machamer, of HNT Engineering & Surveying.

Machamer was the lead designer of the nearly 20-acre flood plain in the northern section of Pine Grove Borough. The borough has been hit hard by flooding, including in 2018.

In 2011's Tropical Storm Lee 14 homes were lost and manufacturer Guilford had 31 inches of water inside its building. Machamer says if the $3 million state-funded project had been in place then, it would have only been 8 inches, and nine of the borough's 11 flood events between 2004 and 2011 wouldn't have happened.

"It's designed to take overflow water before it spills anywhere else. This is the first place flood water goes," Machamer said.

On its first real test the flood plain passed with flying colors. Experts say it prevented nearly 180 homes and six businesses from flooding.

Borough resident John Ziegler has lived in the borough since 1965 and has seen firsthand his street become a river.

"The lower end still floods from the creek in the back. They need to take care of that," he said.

Machamer says a phase 2 will expand the flood plain. It's not a cure all but for now he'll take the gift of modern technology.

"Especially at this Christmas kept everyone a little safer and little dryer," he said.

He also says it will lower residents' flood insurance and help the borough with taxes, as homes and businesses are less likely to be lost to high water.

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