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Officials Say Curb Development In Flood Basin

William Paterson hosts educational symposium on how to alleviate and plan for future flood events in Passaic County. Residents say solutions aren't enough.

Continuing home buyouts and elevation projects, examining possible long-term mitigation solutions, and curbing development.

Local, state, and federal officials spoke about those flood-alleviation strategies at a symposium on Passaic County flooding at Wednesday.

Officials said those strategies need to continue as part of an overarching plan of alleviating flooding in the Passaic River Basin.

Residents living in the basin have to come up with a long-term solution to flooding. Some have suggested a water tunnel leading out to Newark Bay. Others want floodwalls and levees constructed throughout the basin. Residents have been particularly vocal about finding a solution ever since Hurricane Irene caused and the surrounding municipalities last August.

Wayne is in the process of buying out more than 50 homes and dozens elsewhere.

Keynote speaker Jeffrey Hoffman said that such solutions were considered when then-historic flooding swept through Paterson in 1903. Solutions included creating several flood control reservoirs throughout the basin. Water could be channeled and drained into these otherwise dry reservoirs during flood events. Creating a flood tunnel was also examined, but these plans were ultimately not implemented.

Hoffman is chief of water supply modeling and planning with the New Jersey Geological and Water Survey with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Hoffman said that climate change, increased development in and upstream from the basin, and changes in the geology of river walls have significantly exacerbated flooding in the basin.

“With less soil and more impervious coverage there are fewer places for the water to go,” Hoffman said.

A panel of local, state, and federal officials answered a variety of questions regarding disaster planning and responsiveness.

Residents living in the 100-floodplain have said at various community forums and government meetings since Irene that although they knowingly purchased a home in the floodplain, they did not count on being flooded as much as they have been in the past two years. Some have been flooded three times and were after Irene.

Bill McDonnell said that more outreach in the basin should be done to better educate residents of the potential risks of living in the area. He also said state- and federally-funded mitigation projects must continue. McDonnell is a mitigation outreach specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said FEMA has provided $40 million recently to acquire, demolish, or elevate properties in the basin.

The DEP has set aside $2 million in Green Acre funds and is working on getting another $8 million to help purchase 174 properties in the basin that qualify to be bought out. That mitigation strategy is one of many  on flooding in the basin the DEP released last month.

Panelists also stressed the need for county and local officials to work together to curb development in the basin.

Roy Messaros, a costal and hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that municipalities in the basin should be forced to re-examine their zoning and development laws.

He said increasing development and allowing more impervious surfaces, like concrete and asphalt, to exist in the basin does not allow the floodplain to do what it is supposed to do, move the water out of the area.

Residents have been particularly critical of the 15-point plan, which states that the floodgates on the Pompton Lake dam . They say the gates at the expense of their neighbors downstream.

“It’s not fair to make the floodwater disappear at the expense of people living downstream,” said David Rosenblatt, an administrator with the DEP’s Office of Engineering and Construction. “We have to convince the upstream communities that they have a role in alleviating flooding everywhere.”

Some residents at the event were critical of steps officials have already taken to alleviate flooding. A small group passed out pamphlets outlining their concerns to attendees.

“They’re spending a lot of money to buy people out, but it seems they are just working around the margins and not really solving the real problem,” said Don Leich. “There are too many small municipal and state groups trying to figure out what to do. There has to be some kind of large commission created that can identify what the problems are and how best to solve them.”

jim walsh May 03, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Why don't we start by de-snagging,dredging and removing silt from rivers,streams and brooks. This was done after 1984 flood and it alleviated the problem for many years. There was no real follow up with a regular maintenance program over the years. Buying out the Hoffman Grove homes is a good idea but it won't help unless these homes are leveled and river is made wider and deeper,as soon as possible. The towns should take the initiative and borrow the money to get the work done. Put a freeze on all local spending and concentrate on dealing with the problem. It's a town problem not just the residents who are affected. It affects the value of everyone's property.
Don Leich May 03, 2012 at 02:52 PM
What's really needed is some body that can take action to manage a complete, rather than a piecemeal, solution to the flooding problems. Perhaps something along the lines of the Highlands Commission. To most people more studies just means more delay. I think most people in the flood zone areas are sick of studies, sick of the inaction, and sick that the one part of the river basin that got major attention (Oakland and the Pompton Lake dam) seems to have made things worse down stream.
Kevin G May 03, 2012 at 02:59 PM
It was great to hear what Mayor Jones and Assemblyman Rumana had to say concerning the flooding in our area. I really felt for Jones when he said how he needs* to be included in these discussions about the flood basin. I was however very disappointed to hear directly from the lips of Roy Messaros that the Pompton Dam can* be opened early to alleviate potential flooding, but it won't be because it wasn't built for that purpose. He went on to say "You can't mix engineering and politics." It is unfortunate becuase I expected a little more problem solving from such an important figure. In the end I still found this to be very informative and not a waste of time. I am thrilled to know that Jones, Rumana, and former Mayor of Little Falls, Michael DeFrancisci know how the victims of this flood feel and are actively working towards a solution.
Kevin G May 03, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I am inclined to agree with you about maintaining the rivers, streams and brooks, but apparently according to Roy Messaros from the Army Corps of Engineers and David Rosenblatt of the DEP dredging does little to alleviate the problem. Maybe you're right though about widening and deepening the river. I'm 25 years old now and it would make a lovely 75th birthday present.
Steve May 03, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Its the Gates. Get it?
Don Leich May 03, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Roy Messaros who represented the Army Corps. of Engineers noted that Pompton Lake levels are considered a resource by the North Jersey Water Supply Commission who set the limits for how much water is allowed to be released prior to a major weather event.
Kevin G May 03, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I'd rather buy bottled water for a week then spend all this time and aggravation fixing my house after it floods.
magic man May 03, 2012 at 04:32 PM
reflecting on kevin's response to jim, yes, the de-snagging, dredging and removing of silt won't do much, but they will do something. however, if it is just done once, or just done in one place,it really amounts to even less. as well apparently, going by testimony given, we would have to dredge 300 feet down to really have any impact, which is not what is being done on any of the projects that have either taken place or which have been proposed. as well, if a comprehensive plan is not implemented for the whole length of the waterway, there will be victims 'here' of any project done 'there', and vise versa. the flooding that we have now, regardless of the result of the report, is not from just those flood gates. the flood gates were the SECOND part of that project. the first part was a channel dredging ABOVE the pompton lakes dam, deeping and widening that waterway for what is listed as 5,280 feet above the damn. that's a whole mile. so while even the army corps guy says that if the water above was a designed as a 'retension basin' as opposed to a 'water storage' area it would greatly help us, with that dredging and widening for a mile upstream, that is just more water that is being held that is going to be let go when the gates are opened. and then there is the factor that on the other side of the dam, the waterway not only gets very narrow, but it turns.
chris May 03, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Make Pomptan Lake Deeper, this way the Ecology of the lake would not be affected when lowered, then Get rid of that feeder Dam ( which backs up any substansial amount of water released into pomptan lakes dawes highway section, and waynes riverveiw community) third, the top soil depot property is filled in to dam, and redirect the river. Dig it out, and straighten the river back to its natural path, 4th. The now closed sheffild park, dig it out, make this very large park a lake with a nice walking path ect around it, 5th continue desnagging along the basin, and removing the very many many islands formed over time, last but not least, wipe out the remaining homes in the grove, and make it the deepest, largest wildlife preservation it can be! It won't stop flooding, but it will help a lot of the people who don't live directly on the River. One last thing any other streams in town( particulary the laguna/ packanack stream) need to be widened, made deeper, and cleared all the way to the packanack dam, as well as the extremely large piles of debri that line it need to be cleared.
magic man May 03, 2012 at 05:05 PM
i, too, actually pined for mayor jones. he's actually an eloquent speaker, but unfortunately, he's in the unenviable position of having to keep dwelling on the past simply to shame others into including him and the city of paterson in the future. as for messaros, there were many things he said that a bunch of us won't like to hear, but unfortunately, what he said, is most probably true. it is obvious that he is at loggerheads with certain officials who are representing their constituents and saying that what we see on the ground is no way what they are saying in the report. whatever is going to happen to alleviate our problems is in no way going to happen overnight. that 15-point program SHOULD be done, but that none of it will show a significant impact for the general public to think anything is really being done. with that, they'll be critical of our elected officials. who rumana mentioned that you left out is our governor. on this issue and this issue alone, christie is our strongest ally by far in helping ot solve our problem. that said, my fear is if he gets nowhere in washington, he'll back down. or a potential vp race will sidetrack him. and if he becomes the vp, who knows? it could be the greatest thing or he might stumble upon a plethora of other issues that will take his focus away. unfortunately, politics get in the mix of things and it sucks. and beurocracies, such as the five or so entities who govern what happens with that water above the dam.
Steve May 03, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Laguna - Packanack solution is as chris says. Beyond that its the GATES.
Sandy Fantau May 03, 2012 at 08:58 PM
I have to agree with everyone. The one thing that frustrates me is the fact that they still draw drinking water from this lake. With all the problems with the DuPont contamination you would think this would have been stopped years ago. This is a health issue for all, and if it can help with flooding that's great.
Rania Baladi May 03, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Enough of this...makes my want to throw up. I had been involved as much as possible, telling my neighbors, who for many years been telling me not to waste my time, that something will be done. I had so much hope. Now I believe that we are minorities. It reminds me of the movie "land of the giants". How disgusting that we live in the U.S.A. and send men to the moon and much more and yet for heaven sake, you expect me to believe that nothing everyone has mentioned and been studying is not going to work. NO...it works, if we had someone working for us. The only reason we are hot on this subject is because BIG COMPANIES have threatened to close shop. OH NO! a mathematical genius said that is a loss for the State. Come on people we are not together...we are all over the place. Now we have the Water company telling us when they will food us and when we will be fined for using too much water. Hello...and someone said "Politics and engineering don't mix". Ok then flood on my friends. I will be voting for deers, fish this time around. NAUSEOUS
Steve May 04, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Dredge, widen and deepen the creek behind Laguna to where it once was and FIX THE GATES PROBLEM which adds to the problem and creates new ones.
Nose Wayne May 04, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Nose Wayne Dredge? Does anybody remember Gagliano Brothers came in years ago and DREDGED the river between fayette avenue and two bridges for FREE,for the soil.As for the GATES,the sign on the bridge should read"When siren sounds run for you life"
Sandy Fantau May 04, 2012 at 04:05 PM
HIGHLAND TRIBUTARIES. Along the three northern tributaries, the Ramapo, Wanaque, and Pequanac, and at their confluence with the Pompton, the destruction by flood waters was far greater than along the Rockaway, Whippany, and upper Passaic, or in that area described as the Central Basin. In the drainage areas of the three tributaries last mentioned the waters were higher than in the flood of 1902, but the general effects were of the same nature, and consisted principally of flooded lands, houses, and washouts. There were few radical cases of complete destruction like those which marked the course of the flood in the northern tributaries. The principal interest is therefore confined to the Pompton and the three highland tributaries which discharge into it. Ramapo River.—The greatest destruction was along the Ramapo. It is the largest of the upland branches, and was therefore the heaviest contributor to the main stream. Throughout the flood period the stream was especially violent, causing great apprehension in the lower valley. The destruction along several stretches of the valley was almost complete. Nearly all the dams failed, and every bridge across the river, with one exception, was carried away. Some small villages were swept bare, and the damages to realty value and personal property were excessive.
Sandy Fantau May 04, 2012 at 04:07 PM
It was only by strenuous measures that the dam impounding the waters of Tuxedo Lake was saved. If this had failed the destruction along the entire course of the river, even to the cities in the lower valley, would have been enormously increased. The dam at Cranberry Pond, in Arden, failed in the early part of the storm, the flood waters disabling the Tuxedo electric-light plant and inundating the Italian settlements along the river below. The failure of the dam conserving the waters of Nigger Pond, which lies at the head of a small tributary emptying into the Ramapo below Tuxedo, resulted in the inundation of Ramapo village. The village of Sloatsburg was practically obliterated. The damage at Pompton Lakes was especially severe. During the early part of the flood the timber dam of the Ludlum Steel and Iron Company, which raised the water to a height of 27 feet, and afforded 7.04 horsepower per foot fall, was carried away with a part of the headrace. (See Pl. II, A.) This sudden emptying of Pompton Lake, an expanse of 196 acres (see Pl. II, B), was extremely destructive to Pompton Plains, and the destruction of the dams above on Ramapo River, which followed some time after the bursting of the lower dam, refilled Pompton Lake above its former level, and caused greater damage than that which resulted from the failure of Pompton dam itself.
Cathy Kazan May 04, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I was at the forum and what Mr. Messaros said was the only new thing I heard. The fact that the dam has nothing to do with flooding was very interesting, as were his comments on the political nature of this problem. The fact that it was mentioned by one of the panelists that an effort is just now being made to "educate" local officials about this problem was disturbing. Apparently, every time there is a turnover of elected officials on a municipal level, the problem is exacerbated by those who repeat mistakes of the past or who do not continue the efforts to mitigate the problem. We need to be mindful of who we elect locally so this pattern does not continue, as well as stay involved as citizens to remind our elected officials of their obligations to the people.
Sandy Fantau May 04, 2012 at 05:07 PM
The large iron bridge just below the dam was carried away, with the stores of the Ludlum Steel and Iron Company. The river front along this company's property was destroyed, along with coal docks at the head of Morris Canal feeder. The channel of the river below the dam is filled with débris, which will raise the height of the water in the tailrace, and unless it is cleared will diminish the available power at the iron works. It has been authoritatively announced, however, that the power facilities will not be restored, as the Ludlum Steel and Iron Company is preparing to use steam power exclusively. To bad Hoffman did not mention all the reasons why this was such a bad flood. Dam breaks
Nose Wayne May 04, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Sandy,great history.The only difference today is we BUILD,BUILD,BUILD! in the area in and around the flood plain.Think of how many trees cut down,land filled in and paved over in the last 100 some years.Unless the river is DREDGED and TREES removed to bring back the original flow of the river,we will always be on the news and in the news.Maybe we should have built the Tunnel.But the way they build things today,it would probabily still be in the study stage or Billions of dollars over cost.Unfortunately,i think this problem will be around for another 100 or so years from now.
Sandy Fantau May 04, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I agree with all the building that is going on. Now they want to put a large mall along the Ramapo River in mawaha. That will send a lot more water our way. People in Mawaha are trying to fight the project. Who knows if they will win. The point I was trying to make is when they open the floodgates at the Pompton Lakes Dam the effect for us down stream is the same as a dam break only caused by men.
Sharon May 04, 2012 at 06:59 PM
You all have great suggestions and comments but as a POMPTON LAKES reident it is very easy for you all to taklk - have you been in our town after the flood s& seen the damage? Do you have any idea how much it will cost to dredge. And for those that are not aware, we DO clean out the lake and remove the debri & such so it flows easier - I will tell you the problem - WE, POMPTON LAKES, pay for it!!!!! Our town pays the bill for a lake that also sits in Wayne & Oakland! Oakland doesn't want to pay for the upkeep, they just don't want the flooding. Well, you can't have your cake & eait it too! The State needs to find a resolution that all towns share in the costs. And the comments about Supont and the water's safesness - maybe you need to ge tyour facts befire you start ranting about it! Our water has been awards "best tasting water in the state" for some years now. The information on the internet is not always right - if you do not know first hand whta the Dupont affected (and didn't) you shouldn't talk. The problem is that the water levels are not being properly regulated. Dredge, don't dredge, clean out or don't - the bottom line is nothing will change if they do not lower the levels. It's great that all those on higher level get "saved" but at the expense of hundeds others that do!
Nose Wayne May 04, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Sandy,The computer system that runs the GATES is as only good as the information that is put into it.Think of how many trees will be removed and area paved over in Mahwah if they pass that project.GOD HELP US ALL!
Sandy Fantau May 04, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Sharon, my neighborhood is in the line of fire when the floodgates open. You can actually see the water rising at incredible rates. I believe this is the same for Pompton Lakes. I have been in your town after a flood, because you are about 1 mile from my neighborhood. From what I heard at the meeting is that they will never lower the lake because of the water comminission. I believe our only hope now is to try to convince the people who control the dam operations to change their policy to benefit all people who live below the dam. That way the lake can be lowered all the way. During a rain event it will fill up, but then the water can be let out in a controlled manor. One thing I know is that from 2007 on our neighborhood has seen flooding like no other time before. I believe that is the same for your town. I think we both want the same thing for our communities. Wayne I hope the people in Mahwah can fight the project and the dep tells them no way.
Steve May 05, 2012 at 01:13 AM
When a major storm is announced, the gates can be opened in advance (sufficiently is the key word) and the water lost by the Water Co. will be reacquired by the water that fell during the storm. ROCKET SCIENTISTS DO NOT ABOUND AROUND HERE!
Nose Wayne May 05, 2012 at 02:54 AM
When Irene and Lee hit our area,i watched the weather channel several days before each hit the area.I guess our ROCKET SCIENTISTS that control the GATES did not watch the weather channel to inform the water company that almost a foot of rain was predicted and if they completely drained pompton lakes,It would have refilled itself.
Pat Lowe May 07, 2012 at 12:01 AM
“We have to convince the upstream communities that they have a role in alleviating flooding everywhere.” We need to go after Bergen County on this one.
Pat Lowe May 07, 2012 at 12:04 AM
As far as I know, Pompton is the only one thats been dredging.

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