Legislation Could Change Who Controls Floodgates
State's Office of Emergency Management would gain control from DEP under proposed legislation.
A state legislator is working to alleviate some of the flooding in the Passaic River Flood Basin.
Assemblyman Scott Rumana (District 40) introduced legislation that would change who decides when the floodgates on the Pompton Lake dam can be opened.
The legislation that would authorize the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to order the water level of any reservoir to be lowered up to five feet prior to a “severe weather event.”
“It’s not an overall solution to the problem but it’s one of those things we can do in the short term to take the edge off for people living in the flood plain,” Rumana said.
The event must be forecast to deposit three or more inches of rain in a day. The OEM would also need to determine that such a move would be “reasonably necessary to prevent or reduce the severity of flooding.”
The legislation would mean the OEM could open the floodgates before a severe storm hits North Jersey. Such a move could potentially lessen the severity of flooding for residents of Wayne, Pequannock, and Pompton Lakes, among other municipalities.
Governor Chris Christie authorized the gates be opened nine hours before Tropical Storm Irene hit North Jersey. The move supposedly drained three feet of water from behind the dam and local residents below the dam still experienced record flooding.
The gates are controlled via computer that automatically opens them when the water reaches a certain height behind the dam. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains the gates.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to open the gates.
“By allowing OEM to make the call with when to lower the level of a particular reservoir or body of water, we’re putting the safety of people first,” Rumana said. “DEP has to think about a decision in terms of water supply, not just people. They’re constantly at war with what to do. It’s not hard to know what to do. We’ve got to think of the people first.”
Residents living in the basin below the dam have complained for years that the gates exacerbate flooding in their neighborhoods. The gates became operational in 2007.
They have said the pressure building up behind the dam causes the water to flow out much more quickly when released, causing flash floods.
The DEP concluded that the floodgates are not to blame for the increased flooding that has occurring the area. The department released a report on the matter earlier this year.
The legislation was introduced in Janurary. It was referred to the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.
“This by no means is a final solution to the problem, but every little thing we can do we need to,” Rumana said. “This area has been too severely impacted by flooding in the past five years for us not to be proactive in protecting our homes and businesses from future flood events.”