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 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 .

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 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 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.”

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Rob Burke August 02, 2012 at 11:41 AM
How about legislation that keeps the damned gates closed. Period. That legilslation is being introduced to address the gates is good; finally, an acknowledgment that the gates are a problem. But I don't get this solution. The gates are a problem. Great. We all agree (except Scondo). How about returning us to the status quo ante and then the gates are taken out of the equation by remaining CLOSED on a permanent basis, pending some other broad based solution. Asm. Rumana, these comment sections are a great way to engage with your constituents and have an open dialog. I encourage you to do so. I'm seeing other elected officials engage with their constituents in places like Patch comments. The dialog is good. We need the information, we have questions and often, we can't attend meetings and symposiums. Articles are limited in scope and don't address all of our questions. And if you do post here, you can easily dispose of folks who don't post respectfully. Think about it.
Donald Annichiarico August 02, 2012 at 12:45 PM
here here its not the dam its the damn unethical overdevelopment of townhouses in the hills that was done while scott ruman was in charge!
Rob Burke August 02, 2012 at 12:58 PM
To me, that's a different issue. Not saying its unimportant -- its very important to manage development in general, and especially in sensitive areas. That said, the first order of business is closing the floodgates. That's much different than opening them earlier. And I don't need a study to figure that out. But I honestly do believe that Asm. Rumana has an opportunity here to lead. And an important step in that regard is to embrace this public forum and to interact with those of his constituents who wish to use this forum for information exchange. Asm. Rumana, you can make your own rules of engagement and tell us what they are. Perhaps you won't engage with anonymous posters. Perhaps you won't engage with hecklers. I don't know what you're comfortable with. But let's get a dialog going.
Margaret Wert August 02, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Article Response to Army Corp of Engineer Flood Study In reading the last article published this response is being written of behalf of all the people who have had to endure the hardships for countless and unnecessary years. First it is a disgrace to this nation and even more to the people to be told yet another new study is being done at “lighting speed “ at an additional cost of $15 million dollars . We ask this, do they not have enough studies from the past 90 years to get this job done? Or do they just enjoy wasting money and time? Are we afraid of getting to the truth and then getting our hands dirty to get the job done. This is not rocket science or is it? Is it okay to rebuild other lands at “lighting speed “and not fix a 90 year old issue in our own county? Or do we no longer live in one of the greatest nations anymore, we ask where is the common sense it that. As far as the comment about Governor Christy not wanting to fix the issue that is a lie .We all sat in the meeting at William Paterson University when Scott Rumana stated that Governor Christy was the only one who wanted to help so was that statement a lie or was it not ? Perhaps if all parties involved got down to the problem and stopped wasting money and time and did some good old fashion hard work that would get done ,or are those parties to worried about votes this year and just telling us what we want to hear. Margaret Wert
Rob Burke August 02, 2012 at 01:10 PM
@Margaret: One thing that your comment makes me wonder is this: Our government leaders love studies. Studies allow them to spread money around to their friends and also paper their files to cover their butts. So what about the studies they did that said its a good idea to build the floodgates without any other mechanism, like a flood tunnel? Where's the study that said that? Who wrote it? Who got paid to write it? How much were they paid? Do they have liability insurance that we can sue them under? And can we find out what town they live in? Let's study the study and see what skeletons lurk in the closet...
Scondo August 02, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Government leaders have no special expertise in many areas of operations, for instance, deciding when to build, open, close or otherwise operate flood gates. So they frequently commission studies to advise them. Under Rob's scenario he would have you believe that these studies are politically motivated, that strikes me as being overly cynical. The cynic being defined as one who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Studies by experts allow government leaders to make proper decisions. When the Governor first convened his commission on flooding, I wrote to them and suggested that they try and employ a comprehensive storage facility plan to allow for the drop down of levels based upon historically available and easily seen weather data. For instance, in winter 2010 over to 2011, the snow pack was so extremely high in January that it was a given that there would be spring flooding of historic levels, there was. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that if you drop storage levels in February with a 30 to 60 inch snow pack in Wawayanda you will be full in April with all the runoff, but you also have kept downstream run off to a minimum. Rumana has listened and that is what he is trying to accomplish over the objectors such as North Jersey Water Commission who have resisted this idea for years. Good luck Scott.
stewart resmer August 02, 2012 at 03:05 PM
And Mr Rumana's curriculum vitae in hyrdrology is from which university?
Rob Burke August 02, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Uh, no. Wrong again, mysterious shill who never shows up in person even after he/she promises to do so. I don't assume anything. I have facts. The facts are that opening the gates earlier is different than leaving them closed altogether. I want an open discussion why we shouldn't demand the gates stay closed until all of your silly studies are finished. And I want that open discussion to be online, right here, and to include government officials. I pay a lot of taxes. So do you. Don't you think we deserve that much? Meetings are hard to attend.
Scondo August 02, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Rob, I was there for the grand opening, I saw the old cars, the dignitaries, had my car washed, stopped at the deli bought a bottle of Poland Spring and went on my way, I'll come buy again to buy some eggs. The study was done, the study is over, it held some essential truths, the major one being that the Flood gates were not responsible for the Irene flooding. Harsh reality meets unwilling beliefs.
Donald Annichiarico August 02, 2012 at 03:42 PM
RE: BURKE those meetings are even harder to attend when they are usually closed to the taxpayers. too much in wayne is decided in closed door meetings. this has to stop.
Steve August 02, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Reduce the water prior to a major storm to the max. You'll get the water back - A STORM IS COMING. Get it?
Donald Annichiarico August 02, 2012 at 04:02 PM
people are assuming the weather is predictable. to certain extent it is but it is still a bet. i do not care to see the reservoirs in particular lowered on a gamble. which is what the governor recently suggested do you see what they look like recently? example: irene was no where near what they were predicting the flip side was that lee was more than expected.
Scondo August 02, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Lowereing would not be on a bet, it would be predicated on the amount of the snow pack registered on an historic scale in January and February. In 2011 there was an unprecedented amount of snow on the ground in the watershed on February 1, which is traditionally the peak, the melt starts later in February. Look to the history http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/01/remarkable_2011_weather_sets_n.html
Sandy Fantau August 02, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Harsh reality is that lowering the water in the reservoir in April would not help with a weather system moving through our area in August. The fact that they lowered Pompton Lakes does not mean this approach will not work. However, they allowed the lake to refill before the storm came through and then reopened the gates again around 5 am. I believe for this idea to work they would need to lower Pompton Lakes about 5-6 feet before a storm and maintain this level by keeping the gates opened. This would prevent the drastic surge of water that hits both Pompton Lakes and northern Wayne. This maybe a great start, but I believe there should be a study done on the floodgates with no concern for both up and down stream flooding. Only then do I feel it would be a true study of what is happening through out the Passaic River Basin. As long as they are looked at from the perspective of are they working the way they where designed to work. Keeping up stream of the dam free of water during most flood events (not Hurrican Irene) they will always come to the same conclusion. To put this in simple terms, how about a study that says Bergan County should still have the same amount of water or flood damage per-gates. Then ask what effect did the floodgates have on the lower Passaic River Basin. I believe we would have a much different answer.
stewart resmer August 02, 2012 at 06:05 PM
OY Vey! what we read here already demonstrates the wide range of opinions, wherein lies the answer?
Sandy Fantau August 02, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Stewart, I'm not saying we need another flood study. I'm just saying if they do another study asking the questions in the same way you will alway get the same answer. 2+2 will always =4. If they are going to do a study they should have no regard for communities up or down stream. Let's assume the floodgates where not designed to protect communities up stream of them. Do a study that will allow them to consider that upstream also receives water and the water is not released as fast down stream. I think the answers would show a different result. However, I don't think you will ever get government to admit they made a mistake protecting some 300 homes up stream at the expense of all those who live below the dam. When you look at the number of homes from Pompton Lakes to Paterson, they should have bought out the homes upstream and devolved a project that would benefit all communities down streamm
stewart resmer August 02, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Sandy I understand what you mean to say, it would appear that some are of the opinion here that a survey is not required. I happen to be of the mind that being as how this has all been a disaster up until now that a new regional assessment and plan is required. Having stated that, I can hear the groans from my detractors. But then in a past life I was trained as a civil engineer of a sort and was proficient in that field of expertise. Topograhpcial survey is a jig saw puzzle, and we all know that water insidiously flows down hill. With todays state of the art technology including space mapping we are at the pinncale of mans ability to understand more of the problem than ever before. I regret to say that these home and businesses whould not have ever been allowed to be developed, and those in gvt elected and salaried are culpable for the outcome and the staggering dollars involved for any buyouts. Can gvt trade land instead of buyouts?
Sandy Fantau August 02, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Stewart, Yes water does flow down hill. That is why they build dams to hold back water. What the floodgates do is create a man-made dam break that goes unchecked for the communities down stream. The only concern is for the water level above the dam. You are correct with the icad programs out there today, you could create any number of senarioes to help clarify everyones questions. I still believe this would give a better picture of what is happening down stream of the dams. It's no secret to the Dep that Top Soil Depot has filled in their property and it is no longer at flood zone elevations. You maybe right that it is now time for a new topographical map to be done. That way you get a clear picture of what the elevations are within the flood zone instead of relying on old information. Not sure when you moved to Wayne, but I have been here from 1972. I think most of the floodplain was already built at that time. Maybe the problem is the building outside of the floodplain with no regard to the effects that run off does. The answer through the years was to build storm drains that would take the water from higher properties and run them to the river. This only magnifies the problem for those within the flood zone. Your solution seems to be get rid of all homes within the flood zone. How about getting rid of all homes built after 1984 in or out of the flood zone. I really don't see either one happening.
still in town 78 August 02, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Serious question if their was no gate there and no dam what would be the end result? What area downtown would be lost? What area in the immediate area after the falls be lost? Both areas are in the middle of being bought out! What I do know is this! 1) man shouldn't build were nature doesn't intend to be built on. 2) how many timesis the town going to literary going to put life limb and property at risk to pull the residents out of the flood zone because residents refuse to get out before the storm?
stewart resmer August 02, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Sandy, 'getting rid' of the homes is not my first choice of verbiage, mitigating may be more palatable a phrase. California Governor Jerry Brown has undertaken a massive proposal to build two tunnels at 14-b each to move water from the north to the south, which appears to be afforded by interests that want and need the water and willing to pay for the project http://www.insidebayarea.com/oakland-tribune/ci_21155437/gov-jerry-brown-fires-first-shot-new-water who here in this state has a need for such resources? California is reported to have a 26-B defecit. Yet Brown scoffs at analysis paralysis and forges ahead. All this mind you as parts of the nation experience historic drought this year.
leanbean August 03, 2012 at 03:34 AM
@stewart resmer. There is a study for a tunnel that was down after the 84 flood. These gates were going to be part of it. But all they did was build the gates and say the cost was to high for the tunnel. If the tunnel was built? these gates might have worked correctly along with the inlets that were to be built along with the tunnel to take the water away. But instead the money that FEMA has paid out on flood claims and buyouts. Plus the cost of a new study. and the loss of taxes from the homes that were bought out. The tunnel would have paid for itself already.The Passaic river basin is a flood prone area. The only way to move the water out of the area is with the tunnel. North Jersey Water Com. put in 108" pipe to move the water from the passaic river on Fairfield Rd. up to the Monksville Resvoir.When they can pump. But most of the time when there is a flood. The resvior is full. So they don't pump. But if the state put the tunnel in? It would have beeb sent to Newark Bay. And they were up in arms about what all that extra water would do to them. And keeping the gates closed like Rob suggests would only cause more damage to the homes in Oakland. Seeing the dam is higher now than before the gates were put in. You being a trained civil engineer should be able to figure that out. The tunnel is the only answer. I'm in town for over 69 yrs and I can't count how many floods I've seen in the Mt. View area. But now with the gates it's flooding the upper parts of the town harder.
stewart resmer August 03, 2012 at 10:54 AM
OK Mr (anon) Bean, while I appreciate your perspective, may I ask who is most reponsible for these poor decisions, regional and local, and what is your solution? It remains unfortunate that you will not post under your true and correct real name.
Nose Wayne August 03, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Stewart, It's not UNFORTUNATE that lean doesn't want to use his real name. There are a lot of crazy people out there. His information is 100% correct. That TUNNEL would have paid for itself today had it been built. What is the solution ? Go back to plan A, the TUNNEL !! You CAN'T buy out every piece of property in the flood plain. People will leave, homes and businesses GONE. Where will all the money come from taxes LOST ? We are our own worst enemy. We BUILT, BUILT, BUILT in the flood plain not to think of what will happen if we cut down all the trees and PAVE OVER everything. So, Yes, Finish the project that was suppose to go hand in hand with the FLOOD GATES back after the 1984 flood. Have seen to much misery because of others people stupity !!!!
Margaret Wert August 03, 2012 at 05:54 PM
well said nose wayne .
Nose Wayne August 03, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Your welcome Margaret, the NOSE NOSE !!!! Seen it first hand,don't need NOSE study to tell me what I have seen and been thru.
stewart resmer August 03, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Great minds think alike. Fools seldom differ.
leanbean August 04, 2012 at 02:27 AM
@stewart resmer, I have my reasons for useing leanbean as my screen name. If it upsets you? I guess your going to have to stay upset. As for your question? "may I ask who is most reponsible for these poor decisions, regional and local, and what is your solution" Gov. Whitman and Mayor Newt Miller along with ella filapone from the Passaic River Coalition put a stop to the tunnel Because of the cost. The gates were installed to work in conjunction with the tunnel. Like I said in an earlier posting. Had the tunnel gone in? What FEMA has paid out in claims and buyouts? Along with the taxes lost to the towns from the bought out homes. The tunnell would have paid for itself already.There is no other solution to get the water out of the flood basin. The prints and the study from 84 flood and tne proposed as builts for the tunnell are sitting on a shelf in either Trenton or there still with the Army Corps of Engeers. I hope I answered your questions. If we ever meet in person? I'll tell you my reason for staying leanbean.
nomore August 04, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Fire up the bulldozers and knock all the houses in Fayette, Mud Valley and Hoffman Groves and let the river run.
stewart resmer August 04, 2012 at 11:32 AM
Bean I think that you remain anon because you have something to hide, or you dont have the courage of your convictions, or maybe even fear being sued for some of the off color ad hominem comments you make here as you disparage others who have a different point of view than your own? What ever. I tend to generaly view anon posters as pesky gnats on the rump of sites like this anyway. Thanks for your view on the flooding, for some one so in the know for so long, I hazard to opine that you have come to a place where you must realize that this problem happened during your watch as it were, and it will never be mitigated in your life time then? I mean really Mr Rumana cant even get a west bound off ramp form Rt 23 to 80 west as he once campaigned on, I wonder what influence he would ever muster to for this?


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