Town Planner: No Evidence Gates Contribute to Flooding

Official says 'There’s been no scientific, hydrological evidence, or study that shows the gates have contributed one ounce to the problem.'

John Szabo wants people in Wayne’s floodplain to understand that he is not the enemy.

Szabo has been the town planner for 13 years. He is also the mayor of Oakland, a community that is upstream from the Pompton River dam on Hamburg Turnpike.  Several flooded-out residents have said that the floodgates on the dam directly contribute to flooding in low-lying sections of town while sparing municipalities upstream–including Oakland and Mahwah–from floodwater.

“The rhetoric is unfortunate,” Szabo said in a recent interview. “A lot of it is uninformed and a lot of it is people responding to a bad situation.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers controls the floodgates via a computer program. When the water behind the dam reaches a certain level the gates open automatically. Residents living below the dam have said that too much water comes out too fast, causing more severe flooding.

Szabo said the gates are not to blame.

“The truth of the matter is: the volume of water is the volume of water,” Szabo said. “These are low-lying areas with a history of flooding, that’s not going to change. There’s been no scientific, hydrological evidence, or study that shows the gates have contributed one ounce to the problem.”

Governor Chris Christie authorized opening the gates for nine hours Aug. 26 before Hurricane Irene dumped 10 inches of rain on North Jersey. Despite three feet of water draining out before Irene arrived, residents in the floodplain were still hit with a record amount of water.

Christie has appropriated $120,000 to conduct a study of the gates’ operation, independent of the Corps. The results of the study will be available Feb. 1.

“We will be completely transparent with the results of that study,” Christie said at a news conference in August. “We’re going to make a determination of what we need to do differently.” 

Army Corps officials said the amount and severity of flooding downstream would be the same even if the gates were not there.

“With the gates open, you get the same level of flooding downstream,” said Col. John Boule II.

Szabo said that parts of Oakland still flood despite the gates being in operation.

“I don’t want people to lose sight of the fact that there are still people who are getting flooded in Oakland,” Szabo said, including neighborhoods along Glenberry Road, Roosevelt Boulevard, and Lakshore Drive. “We have significant flooding issues in Oakland that have nothing to do with the gates at all that are not getting any attention from anybody because of everything that is happening downstream.”

Szabo said that development is one of the major factors contributing to flooding in the area.

“Development is a regional issue,” Szabo said. “Every tree you cut down, where do you think that water goes?”

Szabo called Wayne’s buying-out of homes in the floodplain “brilliant.”

Wayne received $24 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to buyout homes in the Mountainview section of town. The Corps may also receive $5 million to buyout homes in the Passaic River Basin.

“Those are the kinds of actions we need to look at as government officials,” Szabo said. “People can’t live in a floodplain. They look at a home in a floodplain and they take a chance, but you don’t really know how bad it is until you go through it.”

Sandy Fantau October 15, 2011 at 05:07 PM
During gate operations, the facility will be monitored to verify the floodgates are operating properly. If an emergency or gate malfunction arises, personnel will be available to readily respond. Should such an event occur, the gates (if no danger exists in doing do so) will be operated in a manual mode until such time that automatic gate operations can be re-initiated. The floodgates are designed to be operated in a manner that will release water from the dam at the same rate water enters the lake. In doing so, near normal pool elevations can be maintained to reduce upstream damage while not increasing flooding downstream. Limitation of the Project: The project has been designed to provide flood reduction benefits within the project area against a 40-year design flood. During this event, no damages are expected to occur to the majority of the structures within the floodplain area. However, flooding within the project area will still occur along the banks and in yards near the river, albeit at lower levels than under pre-existing conditions. Flood stages during larger events will be reduced in comparison to pre-existing conditions but some damage may occur to structures.
Sandy Fantau October 15, 2011 at 05:36 PM
2007 means everything to those who live below the dam. Where does the water go when the floodgates are opened? If the lake is getting more water during a storm, the gates open even taller to let more water out. They where designed to provide maximum flood reduction benefits to upstream residences, at the same time not increasing downstream flooding. If you talk to anyone from Pompton Lakes to the town of Fairfield they believe the floodgates have increased downstream flooding. I find it hard to believe that the MAYOR AND COUNCIL of Oakland did not understand the benefits of this project had for there town. FRG Sports Complex, formerly known as Muller's Park — directly next to Oakland's former swimming park, Pleasureland, located along the Ramapo River. Both properties currently remain abandoned with their pools and buildings overgrown as the town continues to decide what to do with the land. Summary of the most recent transactions: Michael & Katherine Bartholme bought Sandy Beach for $158,000 from Frank Gallo on Aug 26, 1998 Frank Gallo bought Sandy Beach for $0 from F R G Sports Complex Inc on Oct 13, 1992
stewart resmer October 15, 2011 at 06:28 PM
hmmmm....Occupy Wayne has a nice ring to it, like the ring of TRUTH!
Rob Burke October 15, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Occupy Wayne would be tough to pull off. People are afraid of retribution & retaliation. Even with a significant turnout, that fear would still persist. That said, even if it were only a dozen people, we'd have something more than many of the other protests: ongoing corrupt activity within the local government, with incontrovertible documentary evidence. It would get some more attention. I'm in if you're in!!!
eyes wide shut October 15, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Im liking the idea of "Occupy Wayne" Lets DO IT. Im sure we can ALL muster a bunch of people, Voters would be nice, but the more the better. Im in as well.
Rob Burke October 15, 2011 at 07:07 PM
careful with this -- you don't want to start something that you can't follow through with. there won't be thousands of people to funnel in and out of the occupation. there will be ten or twenty. are there really a dozen people willing to occupy until election day? take that as your minimum goal. and then, where do we occupy? outside at 475 valley road? Get 10 more people really willing to commit to this and i'm in.
Justice October 15, 2011 at 08:07 PM
Who will get the permits to assemble? It is our constitutional right..I just want to make certain all bases will be covered.
Rob Burke October 15, 2011 at 09:28 PM
i'll tell you what. if you all are serious, then let's get together and talk about it. i am perfectly happy to host a conversation at my car wash whenever you all find it convenient. if we decide to move forward, i will take care of whatever permits are needed. but if we are going to do this, we need to move quickly. there may be legal fights to wage over permits, and it would be most useful to do this as soon as possible in my opinion. we can pick a day & time to meet and announce it here. i'll suggest either this tuesday or a week from this tuesday at my car wash at 6 pm. if anyone has a better suggestion, i'm certainly flexible. thoughts?
Justice October 16, 2011 at 01:14 PM
Tuesday evenings are fine for me. I suggest that anyone who cannot make it by 6pm, please voice your dates and times as Rob is flexible. We need this to work for ourselves and our children. We MUST stop burdening our children with these problems It should not be a legacy of corruption that they will remember Wayne with. Remember how the town council overturned our vote to the BOE budget.... It is TYRANNY, plain and simple The money doesn't go to the students, it is going in some unholy deal.
leanbean October 16, 2011 at 09:38 PM
Burke, You and Brennan are like the three stoogies minus one. You could hold your meeting in a phone booth. If you looking for all your friends to come? I have to hand it to you. What a way to sell car wash's. Three more weeks and your puppet can dry the cars.
Justice October 17, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Declaration of Independence Celebrated in Song - UNIQUE! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYlKPK48cjk
Rob Burke October 17, 2011 at 07:24 PM
are you serious? 25 people? we may need to relocate. i was thinking we'd be lucky to get three or four. we'll see what really happens and if need be find a bigger place to move to nearby. sounds interesting...
eyes wide shut October 17, 2011 at 07:37 PM
Rob im also reaching out to the UFCW Local 464a Meat cutters union in Little Falls. Perhaps we should reach out to some other unions in the area that also have had enough..
Rob Burke October 17, 2011 at 07:39 PM
That sounds like a good idea. Since I don't even know who you are and you can't make it tomorrow night, maybe you can reach out to me and we can talk? You can contact me through the Wayne Corruption Costs You Money facebook page or call me at the car wash. Or stop by.
eyes wide shut October 17, 2011 at 07:53 PM
ill stop by your car wash sometime this week. Also have i have someone putting in a call to the Teamsters local 945. located at 585 Hamburg Tpk. Perhaps maybe you can give them a shout as well at 973-942-9463
Rob Burke October 17, 2011 at 08:08 PM
Best days to catch me this week are tomorrow & Friday. The union idea is a good one. I don't think its wise to launch this idea unless we are guaranteed to have a significant number of genuinely committed folks willing to endure some agreed upon minimum number of days & nights. In the event an Occupy Wayne doesn't seem realistic, this could be a good way to organize and get an agreed upon message out to a lot of folks. No down side to starting the conversation.
Rob Burke October 17, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Occupy Wayne, A Conversation, tomorrow night, October 18, 2011, 6 pm at 2122 Hamburg Turnpike. All are welcome to attend. Note that I have now been contacted by three news outlets wanting to know what's up with this. I told them I wasn't sure just yet. Let's find out together. Wayne Corruption Costs You Money Occupy Wayne: We Won't Go Til Nadine Goes
Justice October 18, 2011 at 05:14 AM
CWA is a great union for this. maybe they can get into the workers at 475. It will certainly change the dynamics. They have had issues with the current governor who has backed Rumana. This current administration is definitely union-busting. Let's bust Rumana out of office before he does more damage.
Scondo October 18, 2011 at 02:04 PM
The Unions were busted long before this administration. Private Sector employees as a percentage of work force who are subject to collective bargaining.In the private sector, union coverage fell to 7.7% The Public Sector Union Membership somewhere between 40 to 50% of public employees.
Sandy Fantau October 18, 2011 at 02:28 PM
A friend sends along the suggestion that we all remember the lyrics to “Look for the Union Label”. When the union thugs start harassing you and trying to make it look like you are disrupting the townhall, just start singing “look for the union label” and remind everyone who the real thugs are. Look for the union label when you are buying that coat, dress or blouse. Remember somewhere our union’s sewing, our wages going to feed the kids, and run the house. We work hard, but who’s complaining? Thanks to the I.L.G. we’re paying our way! So always look for the union label, it says we’re able to make it in the U.S.A.! When the union thugs start harassing you and trying to make it look like you are disrupting the townhall, just start singing “look for the union label” and remind everyone who the real thugs are.
Rex miatke October 19, 2011 at 01:58 AM
Billie Sue get those towels ready.
Scondo October 19, 2011 at 11:46 AM
Ok we get it now leave us alone. Fact this thread is about flooding.
Sandy Fantau November 03, 2011 at 08:35 PM
Sorry it took so long 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 November 03, 2011 at 08:38 PM
As you can see the floodgates had a major impact on my community.
Terry Oller February 02, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I agree with Rob Jessica you sound like you have done your research. Wayne TWP needs to appoint someone specifically to come up with plans to stop the flooding.
Terry Oller February 02, 2012 at 06:55 PM
what about dredging the rivers to make them deeper. I live in the riverview section of wayne and when we bought our house in 2005 we were told it only got a few inches of water in the basement with hurricaine floyd. Since we have lived here we have been flooded four times, two of those times we have been displaced from our house for 6 to 8 weeks and have had over 35,000 dollars worth of damage. I have four small kids, this is not what i signed up for. Whatever is being done now is NOT working. Something new needs to be done.
Terry Oller February 02, 2012 at 07:04 PM
That is bull!!! our house was not cheap. We were told there was one flood and only a few inches when we bought the house. And even if it is cheaper is it ok for poorer people to flood and lose everthing because they can't afford more expensive housing? You are MEAN!!!!!
Terry Oller February 02, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Well said Sandy!!!
Terry Oller February 02, 2012 at 07:47 PM
so if no one buys in the flood plain and the government wont buy us out, we who live here are stuck here. Yes?
Sandy Fantau February 02, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Terry, the sad fact is I believe all towns down stream from the Pompton Floodgates where asleep at the wheel. I have found Army Corps reports and township minutes from Oakland about the floodgates. The sad fact is when they where originally present to the townships the gates where designed to open up before a heavy storm. At some point the gates opening before a storm changed when Governor Whitman was in office.  Why the towns did not pick up on this during the planning stage is mystery to me. Having lived  in the Riverview Community from 1972, I feel the whole Passaic River Basin was sold out to the benefit of those who live above the dam. Governor Christie is supposed to be releasing a report on the effects of the Pompton Floods  on the lower river basin. It is my hope that this report will state what people in Riberview already know. The floodgates had a tremendous inpact on us.  


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