SHAMOKIN - Restoration of the channels of Shamokin Creek and Carbon Run, originally expected to start this year, likely won't begin before spring, according to the project engineer.

Final bid specifications are being prepared and, with the blessing of city officials in early August, will be turned over for final approval to the state and federal emergency management agencies, according to Mike Brinkash, city engineer.

FEMA had previously approved approximately $3.4 million to fix 1.23 miles of the creek channels damaged by flooding in September 2011. That dollar figure had been treated as an estimate. FEMA's review of the bid specifications will finalize exactly what it will pay for, which will determine the project scope.

"We're being overly cautious with these expenses to make sure everything's being paid for," Brinkash said Thursday. "It's extremely important that there's no expense to the city."

A definitive answer from FEMA is expected about four weeks after the bid package is turned over, Brinkash said. After that, the project will be put to bid. It's likely construction would follow in the spring, unless a mild winter allows for work to begin.

The current project completion date is Dec. 31. That won't be met. An extension will be sought, with September 2015 targeted, Brinkash said.

Three "emergency" areas are likely to be addressed first: in the 200 block of South Shamokin Street and along South Sixth Street at Mulberry and Montgomery streets.

Permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have not yet been received.

The city first applied to FEMA in November 2011 and received an initial promise of $1.7 million to repair 50 damaged areas. Additional surveying and engineering work showed the damage was much greater, specifically on the bottom of the channels. In all, 107 areas were identified for repair. FEMA doubled the funding request to $3.4 million in spring 2013.

Three pre-qualified bidders had previously been determined after FEMA's initial announcement of an allocation. Once the project scope widened, and given that the project had stalled earlier this year, new bidders will be sought.

A stretch of Shamokin Creek behind the downtown, along with a small stretch of Carbon Run, lays within proposed boundaries the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission identified as eligible for designation as a historic district. Those portions are to be restored as closely to the original state of the channels as possible.