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Study: Floodgates Aren't To Blame For Downstream Flooding

State releases findings of independent study of the gates on the Pompton River dam.

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.”

15-Point Plan

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.”

Scondo April 15, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Well Rob, whose job is it to represent nj in getting it share of federal revenue sharing? If more came back there might be a means of assisting flood ravaged communities, no?
Rob Burke April 15, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Yesterday you were relying on yourself, not the government. Now, you're blaming the government. Yesterday, you were relying on the "science" in the GOVERNMENT FUNDED STUDY. Today, you are blaming that same government. Yesterday, you didn't acknowledge that the GOVERNMENT told us all we could buy land in these affected areas and that we could build homes and businesses there. If you aren't multiple people using the same screen name, then there may be a multiple personality disorder thing going on here...
Sandy Fantau April 15, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I also read that Mayor Cole would like to conduct a independent study of the floodgates. Perhaps Wayne, Pequannock, Lincoln Park, Little Falls, and Paterson can pool their money together to support this. I don't believe any one is saying that they would like to see the flood protection given Oakland taken away. I'm not even sure if that could be possible without an act of congress. However, it may be time for Federal and State agencies to look at this problem from a cost effective way. The target area of the project is protecting around 300 homes at the cost of say 290,000 per home. The reason I picked 290,000 was because a friend of mine just sold her 3 bedroom home on Manitou for a bit less. Not in a flood zone - never in one.  Now compare that to how many homes are now being repeatedly flooded, because the water gets to our neighborhoods faster, because the river can not hold the added velocity of water. It is my understanding that if the  operation of the floodgates is changed to no longer protect the project area the Army Corp will walk away from the project. Come on New Jersey do the right thing and let them go. This was a part of a much bigger project that was never going to be done. 
Sandy Fantau April 15, 2012 at 05:28 PM
@ Cathy, I also have the print out that shows the entire week. Every 15 minutes it gives a new reading with the hights at that time. If you look at them you can see where the lake was drained 3 feet after that the gates went back to auto operation (around 11 PM) and the lake refilled and opened again around 5 AM. The rest is history
Cathy Cote April 16, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Scondo: I agree with you about the topography and such being different in the two areas, however It still doent explain why before dams opening the flooding seemed to be close to the same in both towns and now after the dam it is constantly worse in Pompton lakes * like I said by at least 4 feet or more. The topography has not changed...why the drastic change in the rise of the river. Its due to the fact that alln the water that used to flood oakland is being pushed down stream, The dam releases water when the lake gets to 11,5 feet (flood stage). There is not a question in my mind that dam is causing the flooding to be worse.
Steve April 16, 2012 at 03:07 AM
No more studies. No more studies to study the studies. No more committees to evaluate the studies. Keep the gates closed. Try it once and you'll see what we who live here already know. Everything is worse since the gates became operational. Experentia docet.
Scondo April 16, 2012 at 11:21 AM
@ Cathy, I can only suggest the viewing of the films that are readily available. Flooding in Oakland , Mahwah , Suffern,Spring Valley, Sloatsburg all experienced historical level flooding , not only during Irene but also spring of 2011. Oakland and points north had extreme flooding , they did not avoid flooding
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Historical Crests for Ramapo River at Pompton Lakes – National Weather Service  At 17 ft water is surrounding the house at 11 South Road, but has not come in to the living areas. At 16 ft the house on 16 Lake Road has water coming into the yard, but is not in the house. At 18.5 feet the water is starting to come into the road by North and Shore. *Major Flood Stage (MFS): 14.5 ft *Moderate Flood Stage (mfs): 13.5 ft  *Flood Stage (FS): 11.5 ft *Action Stage (AS): 10 ft 2011  1. September 8, 2011 - 14.33 ft (mfs)  2. August 29, 2011 22.62 ft (MFS) South & Lake Road  3. April 17, 2011 - 14.80 ft (MFS)  4. March 11, 2011 - 16.72 ft (MFS) Lake Road  5. March 7, 2001 - 15.83 ft (MFS)  2010  1. March 31, 2010 - 11.12 ft (FS)  2. March 14, 2010 - 18.05 ft (MFS) South and lake Road  2008  1. December 12, 2008 - 11.03 ft (FS)  2007  1. December 24, 2007 - 13.02 ft (FS)  2. April 16, 2007 - 16.99 ft (MFS) Lake Road  2005  1. October 13, 2005 - 13.66 ft (mfs)  2. April 3, 2005 - 14.22 (mfs)  3. March 29, 2005 - 10.58 ft on (AS)  1984  1. April 5, 1984 - 21.60 ft (MFS) South and Lake Road
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Historical Crests for Ramapo River at Mahwah Major Flood Stage - 12 feet Minor Flood Stage - 9 feet Flood Stage - 8 feet Action Stage - 7.5 feet Went to Major Flood stage 1 time during hurricane Irene from 2007. You attribute this to the dam break. Minor flood stage 3 times. 11.16 feet on 3-7-11. 10.72 feet on 3-11-11. 9.58 feet on 4-17-11 (1) 15.78 ft on 08/28/2011 (2) 12.53 ft on 10/16/1955 (3) 12.52 ft on 09/16/1999 (4) 11.87 ft on 05/29/1968 (5) 11.35 ft on 08/19/1955 (6) 11.16 ft on 03/07/2011 (7) 11.00 ft on 10/09/1903 (8) 10.76 ft on 08/28/1971 (9) 10.72 ft on 03/11/2011 (10) 10.50 ft on 12/21/1973 (11) 10.40 ft on 09/22/1938 (12) 9.90 ft on 01/25/1979 (13) 9.87 ft on 04/03/2005 (14) 9.85 ft on 10/13/2005 (15) 9.77 ft on 02/03/1973 (16) 9.55 ft on 04/17/2011 (17) 9.33 ft on 12/21/1957 (18) 8.88 ft on 11/12/1995 (19) 8.87 ft on 02/26/1961 (20) 8.80 ft on 12/11/2003 (21) 8.69 ft on 01/25/1996 (22) 8.40 ft on 01/05/1982 Scando please explain
Diane Hummel April 16, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I agree with Steve. I think that all of the studies just say whatever they want you to think, not what actually is going on. No more studies - it is time to try something new and see what happens.
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Historical Crests for Ramapo River at Pompton Lakes Dam (1) 15.60 ft on 04/03/2005 (2) 15.33 ft on 04/05/1984 (3) 14.90 ft on 09/17/1999 (4) 14.40 ft on 10/16/1955 (5) 14.04 ft on 11/08/1977 (6) 13.82 ft on 05/29/1968 (7) 13.56 ft on 03/12/1936 (8) 12.31 ft on 12/12/2003 (9) 12.15 ft on 11/10/2006 (10) 11.59 ft on 12/12/2003 (11) 11.46 ft on 12/12/2008 (12) 11.44 ft on 09/06/2008 (13) 11.37 ft on 01/28/1996 (14) 11.36 ft on 03/23/2010 (15) 10.41 ft on 12/25/2003 (16) 10.14 ft on 03/22/1999 (17) 10.00 ft on 10/20/1996 (18) 9.77 ft on 12/02/1996 (19) 9.65 ft on 05/11/1998 (20) 9.37 ft on 10/30/2003 (21) 8.16 ft on 01/19/1999 Scando now you have the 3 Gage's from Mahwah to the top of the dam. Please explain what is the big difference between the reading above the dam and for the increases below the dam.
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Conclusion this assessment has determined the most cost effective method to stabilize the failed stream bank condition is hammered rock stabilization at an estimated cost of $600,00. This estimate does not include the permitting procedures which can be better determined following consultation with DEP. As previously stated the factors contributing to the failure of the area have not been investigated within this report. The intent has been rather to summarize the means of stabilizing a significant stream bank failure which currently is resulting in extensive property damage, introduction of mature trees into the Ramapo River waterway, and if left unattended, could result in the ultimate loss of residences as habitable, safe structures. http://www.oakland-nj.org/PDF/Erosion_Page/RamapoRiverReport.pdf who idea is this Oakland's - let's get the water moving in faster down stream to Wayne and Pompton Lakes
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 04:41 PM
I agree Diane and Steve if they are going to be done with the input of the DEP and Army Corp. I think Mayor Cole of Pompton Lakes has a great idea about doing on from the perspective of living below the dam, not are they working as designed. I do hope the Mayor of Wayne and all towns down stream give her a call and help with the cost of the study. No animated cartoons. Use real life observations from the USGA Gage's.
Diane Hummel April 16, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Sandy, or anyone else that may know - Does anyone know why that didn't clean out the river behind the farm on Black Oak? My fiancee and I walked down to the feeder dam on Sunday, and that part of the river has not been cleared of trees and debris. Does anyone know why they didn't do that section?
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 05:26 PM
At first I heard that the big bucket loader broke and they would be coming back. That they would start at the falls and work towrds South Road Then at a town council meeting they said the town was finished with the cleanups.
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 05:39 PM
If you get a chance look at the cleanup that was done in the Ryerson Road area.
Diane Hummel April 16, 2012 at 05:43 PM
I will look at it - I have seen behind Mc Cobb's and Dunkin Donuts, and it looks beautiful. I knew that they were cleaning up in our neighborhood, and I expected it to look beautiful back there. However, all of the flood debris is still there and it hasn't been touched. It just figures, doesn't it?
Scondo April 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM
http://wayne.patch.com/articles/rivers-will-be-de-snagged-cleaned-to-alleviate-flooding One reason may be that the County of Morris and County of Passaic have not delimited their respective boundaries in the area above the Diversion Dam. It is not contained in any towns tax map as a property in the town, kind of like no mans land. Both sides of the bank from the feeder dam to the diversion dam are in Passaic County, and on the far side it is carried as Passaic County Park, but when you get to the diversion dam there is no delimited boundary, so just maybe no one town wants to take care of it. Wayne took the money to do it through the DPW, I understand the other two towns were contracting it out. So that may explain why.
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Scando, Dianne is talking about the tow path that runs behind the post office then the old mans house goes along the farm to Maple Lane and joins up with South Road. I don't think she is talking about the islands, though that would be a added bonus. Scando thought you where going to stop by.
Diane Hummel April 16, 2012 at 07:27 PM
You are right Sandy - we walked from Maple Lane entrance to the tow path down to the Feeder Dam, all Wayne Property. Cleaning up the island would be cool, but I think its more important to at least clean up along the tow path. There's car batteries and coolers and bikes all over down there. My fiancee thinks that they didn't bother cleaning it up because it can't be seen from the street, so therefore it has no "PR" value.
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 07:41 PM
That very well could be. People walk the tow path a lot during the nice weather. I've noticed and heard from people who boat the river that it is extremely shallow now.
George April 16, 2012 at 07:41 PM
@ Diane Blois...behind McCobb's looks great, it already looked like that before the cleanup project on the Wayne side. I have a feeling the McCobb owers cleaned all those banks. The Pompton Lakes side now looks great as well. To me it seems like Pompton Lakes has done a lot more than Wayne did in the whole desnagging process. My question, since Wayne chose to use it's own publics works employees to do the work, what happened to the grant money? Just thrown into the township treasury? Presumably those employees were already on the payroll and in the budget to be paid. I think it would have wiser to subcontract that work.
Sandy Fantau April 16, 2012 at 08:19 PM
I'm disheartened to read that the members of the Passaic Valley Flood Commission took the 'company line!" COME ON TOWNS do the right thing and join Mayor Cole of Pompton Lakes and continue to fight this. Gov's flood commission fails to address local concerns http://www.northjersey.com/topstories/littlefalls/147624665_Gov_s_flood_commission_fails_to_address_local_concerns__officials_say.html?scpromo=1
Diane Hummel April 17, 2012 at 01:32 PM
@ George - I do agree with you - Pompton Lakes did an absolutely awesome job in cleaning up their side of the river. I wish that we could say the same for Wayne. It's a good question as to where the grant money went for Wayne when we were using our DPW guys on taxpayer dime to clean the riverbanks instead of subcontracting out.
KAREN POST April 18, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Got this email today: Hold public officials accountable! Ask them "What's up with the dam gates?", "Oakland's OK. How come we're not?" The event details are: Occupy the Floodgates William Paterson University 300 Pompton Road Wayne, NJ 07470 Wednesday, 2 May 2012, 4:00 PM To sign up for this event, click here: (you'll have to paste into your browser window) http://pol.moveon.org/event/99communitybuild/129624
Sandy Fantau April 20, 2012 at 04:57 PM
@ Bill. The Riverwiew Community I'd tucked in between Hamburg Turnpike and Black Oak Ridge Road and stops at the farm. I believe there are 11 streets in the neighborhood. Still a place where kids go out and play, which is a rare think these days.
RKelly April 26, 2012 at 01:18 AM
All this rambling about a report which represents the myopic viewpoint of a government agency which is arguably self-serving is not time well spent. This basin is a well documented flood zone dating back to early 1920s and the damn gates simply accentuate an existing problem (no Bayesian statistics needed for that conclusion). We are better served by exploring other, previously recommended solutions (like retention reservoirs) which was raised by an earlier Army Corps Engineer report from the 80s.
Scondo April 26, 2012 at 01:43 AM
1920, try 10,000 years. Retention reservoirs were the catalyst for formation of the Passaic River Coalition , which along with the Sierra Club killed that possibility as well as the flood tunnel. Google the 1903 Passaic river flood and you will get a most comprehensive flood reort. sandy has cut and pasted large sections of that report on these threads. The thing I find unusual is that flood victims think the coalition is on their side
Maureen Colombo May 15, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Diane I so agree with you. I live in Pompton Plains in an area that ONLY floods when the gates are opened. Since this is done to protect Oakland and since the damns are in place to provide water for other cities I really feel that our towns that suffer for thier sake should impose a tarriff for the use of these dams and gates and cover the cost of the tunnel, property damage and insurance when the gates are misused (ie opened WAY to late). Maureen Colombo
letterstoeditor@bostonherald.com May 30, 2013 at 07:13 PM
There is no way the Pompton Lakes flood gates alone could have made flooding this much worse. The problem is further upstream - the much larger Wanaque Reservoir. This reservoir was at 100% capacity when Hurricane Irene hit, as well as during 3 other major storms in 2011 that caused 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 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' are WildLanders who want to take houses for animial habitat. google articles on this subject by Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club, Justin Zaremba, and "Ahead of Sandy, NJ gives order to lower reservoirs, open flood gates FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2012 LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY OCTOBER 26, 2012, 8:57 PM BY JAMES M. O'NEILL AND SCOTT FALLON"

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