An independent study of the floodgates on the Pompton River dam has concluded that the operation of the gates does not increase downstream flooding.
“The data and the science we now have clearly indicates that the floodgates are not the cause of flooding down stream,” said Bob Martin, DEP commissioner.
That conclusion was part of a final report the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released on Thursday. Governor Christie ordered the study conducted after touring flood-ravaged towns in the Passaic River Flood Basin last year.
The $350,000 study also concluded that the prior to Hurricane Irene last August “did not affect the flooding form that storm.”
AECOM, an international engineering and management support firm, conducted the study. According to the final report, they used “the most sophisticated modeling technology available” to analyze four recent flood events, including Hurricane Irene, to evaluate the operation of the gates. (A copy of the report has been attached to this article or can be found online by clicking here .)
The DEP also released an updated report on a 15-point plan designed to relieve flooding in the Passaic River Basin. The original report . It outlines short-term and long-term actions to deal with flooding. Martin is a member of that committee. Improving the operation of the floodgates is one of the points in the plan.
Although water may arrive downstream quicker than if the gates did not exist, the report states that amount of water and its elevation would remain the same.
“There is not enough volume of storage in the reservoir to reduce flooding,” the report states.
Residents in the Riverview section of town have long said that the gates have increased the severity of flooding in the area since they became operational in 2007.
Town Planner John Szabo previously said that the gates .
Martin said that “significant” rain and weather events and development in the basin in the past have contributed to the increase in flooding downstream from the dam.
Martin met with the mayors of towns in the basin on Thursday to discuss the findings and the report.
Mayor Chris Vergano was disappointed with the conclusion of the study.
“I was really hoping for something different from the study than what came out of it, but I am glad the state conducted a study,” Vergano said. “Clearly when the floodgates open you can see the water rising much faster than it would before the gates were installed.”
The updated 15-point plan outlines several courses of action state and federal emergency management agencies are examining to alleviate flooding and increase public safety in the basin.
“The fact of the matter is, it’s flooded for 10,000 years in the basin. It’s going to flood in the future, we know that is going to happen,” Martin said. “Our goal is to minimize the impact of that flooding, get people out of harm’s way, and continue to work on long-term planning.”
- The advisory committee recommended placing a moratorium on all new development in the floodplain. The DEP plans to meet with municipal officials to discuss their support for the moratorium.
Another recommendation is for local officials to “address their master plans and zoning ordinances” to guide future development away from high-risk flooding areas.
- The state will buy out more than 540 homes in the basin using hazard mitigation grant funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The DEP has set aside $2 million in Green Acre funds, and is working on getting another $8 million to help purchase 174 additional properties in the basin that were identified as buyout properties after Hurricane Irene.
Wayne is in the process of buying out in the township with $6.3 million in federal disaster relief funding. An additional 70 homes are being purchased with hazard mitigation grant funds from FEMA.
- The state Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is working with FEMA to elevate 106 homes in the basin. FEMA will fund the project. The report does not state where those homes are located. Larry Rangonese, a DEP spokesperson, did not know where the properties are located.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) has acquired 50 acres of land in Parsippany to allow floodwater to safely drain. No development will be allowed the property.
The ACE could also acquire five properties in the township under eminent domain. Offers for additional land acquisition have been sent to Wayne, Pequannock, Montville, and Lincoln Park.
- Several new gauges will be installed and reactivated to provide more accurate information regarding water levels and the flow of water through the basin. They will “help better predict floods and assist in emergency response,” the report states.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, criticized the report. The Sierra Club is a national organization that seeks to influence public policy regarding the environment through education and grassroots political action.
“The report left off limiting sprawling, overdevelopment and impervious coverage that are all important aspects to prevent flooding,” Tittel said.” Without those key aspects this report is meaningless and the flooding continues year after year.”