Dozens of residents from Wayne, Little Falls, Fairfield, and other municipalities within the Passaic River Flood Basin met with local and state officials Tuesday to discuss putting an end to area flooding.
Some Wayne residents said that the township is doing nothing to protect their homes and alleviate flooding, which has gotten worse since floodgates on the Pompton River began operating in 2007. Although the township is buying out houses in the Hoffman Grove section of town, some said that is not enough.
“Those flood gates on the Pompton River should be disabled,” said Abbie Limani, who lives in the Old Wayne section of town. Limani said her house was flooded four times this month. “This is a man-made problem that’s out of control. It is worse now than it has ever been.”
Little Falls has applied for grants under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Severe Repetitive Loss Program, a fiscal assistance initiative for residents whose homes are insured under the National Flood Insurance Program(NFIP). The funds will assist 68 homeowners by elevating their homes two feet.
A comprehensive plan to minimize flooding within the Basin was in February by the Passaic River Flood Advisory Commission. The 15-point plan is designed to minimize the impact of floods, provide better disaster support to flood victims, improve water flow in the Basin, and expedite the permit process for county and municipal projects aimed at eliminating or reducing flooding.
According to a report of the Recommendations of the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Committee, several of those 15 initiatives have “adequate funding available” to begin immediate implementation.
Improving the operation of the Pompton Lakes dam floodgates is one of those recommendations. The project will cost approximately $120,000. Dredging and removing feeder dams are two more recommendations discussed as being viable options to alleviate area flooding.
“Those gates cause the water to back up, which creates a diastolic pressure so that when they are finally opened the water rushes out faster than it normally would if the gates weren’t there and causes flash flooding,” said resident Michael Fantau.
Other residents said that despite the efforts of government officials, the problem is not getting any better, it’s getting worse. Area flooding used to take place once every few years or once a decade. Now, flooding has the potential to occur multiple times in a single year because, according to residents, it does not take as much water to flood the Basin as it used to. Several causes have been attributed to this, including the malfunctioning of the Pompton River floodgates, global warming, and continued development within the Basin.
One attendee said that despite everyone’s efforts, and the nearly $790 billion stimulus package that the U.S. Congress and Senate approved in February 2009, nothing has been done to alleviate flooding for residents whose flood insurance premiums continue to increase and home values continue to decrease.
Assemblyman Scott Rumana (D-40) said that “keeping the pressure” on federal officials to get them to take the necessary steps to help people is necessary. He said the process takes time. One attendee said that he has “never seen” Senators Robert Menendez Frank Lautenberg, or Rep. Bill Pascarell despite attending meetings for “several years.” A representative from Pascarell’s office did attend the meeting.