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Update: Floodgates Will Be Opened Ahead of Sandy

Floodgates on the Pompton Lake dam will open early in anticipation of storm.

The floodgates on the Pompton Lakes dam will be manually opened Saturday in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy in an effort to relieve possible downstream flooding for residents who live below the dam.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a press release on the decision Friday night.

“New Jersey’s reservoirs are designed to provide water, not for flood control,” DEP Commissioner Martin said in a statement. “But given the situation, we decided we needed to get as much water out of the reservoir systems as possible, creating void space for runoff from the storm.”

The DEP will manually open the gates and keep them open to drain five feet of water from the lake. This should allow the water to safely pass through downstream communities. The gates will go back to automatic operation once the water is drained.

Assemblyman Scott Rumana and other local and state officials have been asking the DEP if the gates could be opened ahead of the storm to avoid the catastrophic flooding that plague residents downstream last year after Tropical Storm Irene. 

“We’re getting everything that we asked for,” said Rumana, a member of the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Committee.

The gates are a sore subject for residents of Wayne, Pompton Lakes, and other municipalities who live below them in flood zones.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed the gates to open automatically when the water behind them reaches a certain height. Since they became operational in 2007, residents have said they've made flooding downstream worse.

"Those gates haven't done a thing to make anything better for anybody living below them," said Julie Smith, a Pompton Lakes resident who's been flooded four times since the gates came online. "At least now the DEP is listening to us and opening them early."

Governor Chris Christie ordered the gates raised the day before Tropical Storm Irene hit North Jersey in August 2011. Despite three feet of water being drained behind them, the gates were closed before Irene hit and lowered after much of the rain fell. Water rushed out from behind the dam and caused the worst flooding in the area in 100 years, residents said.

“If the storm comes in and the water starts rising, if the gates are already open we’ll eliminate that rush of water we experienced last year,” Rumana said.

The Boonton, Charlottesburg, and Wanaque reservoirs will also be allowed to drain, Rumana said.

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Scondo October 26, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Good move.
Elizabeth October 27, 2012 at 12:12 AM
They should be opened NOW, could take 3 days to drain as much water as needed!
leanbean October 27, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Scott, I'm glad you listen.
scott pettersen October 27, 2012 at 12:30 AM
I agree. Open the damns now. wWhy wait?
the dude October 27, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Will not matter, the gates have no impact on downstream flooding. You heard it here first...not...the study said the same thing months ago. We told you so....let's see what happens.
Nose Wayne October 27, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Dude, Guess you don't live in the flood plain. See what "HAPPENS".
YGBFKM October 27, 2012 at 11:25 AM
One small item you might have missed(I didn't), last night's press release stated that the gates would remain open throughout, now first thing this am they will be closed when five feet is drained and put back on auto(the PROGRAM). Eliminating the effect of the gates(leaving them open) is the only answer. My "studies" have been done and cost MUCH less than the $15mil, 3.5mil, 350k etc., etc., etc.
Sandy Fantau October 27, 2012 at 01:31 PM
The article states the Wanaque can also release water before the up coming storm. As of 9.00 am no water has been released from this body of water. Lets hope the do so later on today.
Steve October 27, 2012 at 01:47 PM
5 ft. may not be enough and won't help if those dams upstream don't do the same thing. Putting the Pomton dam back on automatic is not wise.
Ed Zachary October 27, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Here we go again.
Sandy Fantau October 27, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Just took this off the north jersey new paper site. Which one is correct. Are they going to keep the gates open to prevent the serge of water or close them like they did during Hurricane Irene? Christie ordered the drawdown of Pompton Lake around mid-day Saturday, with the state Department of Environmental Protection manually operating the flood gates at the dam there to lower the lake by five feet, Commissioner Bob Martin said in the statement. That work is expected to take five to six hours and the gates will go back to automatic operations afterwards, he said. Lake Hopatcong, which is a state-owned lake in Sussex County, also will be drawn down Saturday. Wayne Mayor Christopher Vergano and Pompton Lakes Mayor Kathleen Cole had asked the state to open the flood gates at the Pompton Lakes Dam. Residents in towns along the Ramapo and Pompton Rivers believe the gates increase flooding, though a state study this year concluded otherwise. “We want to have them open so you don’t have the surge impact that you’ve had in the past,” said Assemblyman Scott Rumana, R-Wayne, who pushed for opening the gates.
Flood Plain October 27, 2012 at 09:57 PM
If the administrators of the gates are allowed to make the decisions, there will be massive flooding. The administrators have no ability to see reality in the "flood plain."
Nose Wayne October 27, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Didn't we learn from Irene, YES WE DID !!!!! Why don't they DRAIN Pompton Lakes and LOWER the water supplies. With this amount of rain expected, they will ALL fill up again. 5 feet is not going to do a DAM thing,OPEN THE GATES AND LEAVE THEM OPEN !!!!!!
The Thorn October 28, 2012 at 12:20 AM
What about the dam up in Arden, NY that was suppose to be open 3' feet but dropped 12' during Irene. Who is responsible for the Arden dam?
Steve October 28, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Again - just 5 feet? Automatic control?
Nose Wayne October 28, 2012 at 02:03 AM
KEEP THE GATES OPEN !!!!! Guess they don't care what people tell them. Thank you Scott. Keep after these idiots !!!!!!
joe October 28, 2012 at 02:59 AM
KEEP THE DAM GATES O P E N ! CLOSING THEM DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO RELIEVE THE FLOODING, SINCE THE WATER SIMPLY BUILDS BACK UP BEHING THE DAM GATES! Check out this web site to see that once the DAM GAtes are closed the water builds back up to it's original height and higher! http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nj/nwis/uv?cb_00065=on&format=html&period=&begin_date=2012-10-26&end_date=2012-11-03&site_no=01387998 just hit GO to get updated into on height of the water behing the DAM gates.
Nose Wayne October 28, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Channel 2 News was just live on Hamburg Turnpike and the gates were BARELY OPEN !!!!! They closed them again. Water is backing right up to where it was. They didn't even lower it 5 feet like they said they would. LIES,LIES,LIES !!!!!!! Can't wait to hear this EXCUSE ? GOD BLESS US ALL !!!!!!
Steve October 28, 2012 at 04:25 AM
OPEN THE GATES FOOLS. TAKE NO CHANCES.
YGBFKM October 28, 2012 at 11:18 AM
LEAVE THE GATES OPEN! OR LEAVE THEM CLOSED! NO TIDAL WAVE WHEN THEY'RE OPENED MID-STORM!
Sandy Fantau October 28, 2012 at 02:32 PM
The Boonton, Charlottesburg, and Wanaque reservoirs will also be allowed to drain, Rumana said. Just checked the level of the Wanague. It still has not been lowered
Scondo October 30, 2012 at 09:52 AM
Wanaque was at 60 percent capacity at end of August , today it was at 70 percent, so it was not in need of lowering, as it already was well down. If it is already low it does not need to be dropped. Rain from this storm was not all that great.
Heather Butler December 26, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Any chance you still want to pursue this?
guest May 29, 2013 at 08:52 PM
The problem is not the Pompton Lakes Dam. the problem is further upstream - the much larger Wanaque Reservoir. This reservoir was at 100% capacity when Huricane Irene hit, as well as during 3 other major storms in 2011 that cacuse serious flood damage that year. Common sense dictates you draw down a reservoir prior to a storm to help hold back flood waters. Instead in NJ the Wanaque South and Two Bridges pump stations pump dirty polluted water out of the Pompton river, back upstream to the formerly pristine Wanaque Reservoir, destroying its capacity as a flood control reservoir, all in the name of maximizing the water supply for unending sprawl/growth, and no lawn watering bans in lower NJ. NJ DEP, which controls tha the Wanaque Reservoir, was (is?) deliberately/knowingly mismanaging the Pompton/Passaic watershed since the 1980's. Irene finally caught them with them with their pants round their ankles. why? because they are exempt from being sued. because they know FEMA will bail them out, no matter how much flood damage they cause. and maybe even because 'they' can take an abadoned flood ravaged property for pennies on the dollar, fix the flooding problem they caused, then turn around and sell the rehabilitated property for a tidy profit???

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