Governor Chris Christie said he has never seen flooding like what he saw Tuesday while touring flooded areas of Wayne and Fairfield.
Christie traveled to the worst-affected areas of Wayne and saw firsthand the devastation that Hurricane Irene left in its wake this past weekend.
The governor noted that he saw, in an area of Wayne that does not normally flood, “incredible despair” from a woman who just moved into her home in December.
“I’ve never seen flooding like that before,” Christie said of the water levels in Fairfield at the Passaic County Public Safety Academy Tuesday. “We can’t pretend to know what these people are going through.”
The Passaic River crested this afternoon at nearly 14.2 feet, more than double flood stage level, according to the National Weather Service. The Passaic was the final waterway of the area’s 11 that flooded to crest.
Christie said inland flooding would be a significant problem in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.
Christie's decision to on the Pompton River for nine hours Friday helped drain 3 feet of water from behind the Pompton River Dam. It was the first time that occurred.
“Many of the residents connect these to the existence of the dam,” Christie said. “There are many residents who I spoke to who said that opening those gates was a great help. I don’t know if it was a great help or not. It didn’t look like it to me, but maybe it could have been a lot worse. My view was, there were so many residents who thought that the dam was a problem that I thought opening the floodgates and lowering the level was the right thing to do. No one could point to me that it would make matters worse.”
Christie commissioned a study last spring, independent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the computer system that operates the gates, to conclusively determine whether or not the current operation of the dam is contributing to or worsening flooding in communities downstream.
The study will be complete Feb. 1.
“We will be completely transparent with the results of that study,” Chrisite said. “We’re going to make a determination of what we need to do differently.”
Christie sent a letter to President Obama requesting an expedited declaration of a major disaster for the entire state of New Jersey. The declaration would authorize the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts. The federal government will provide financial assistance to fund area relief.
Wayne previously $24 million to help purchase houses in flood-prone portions of the township, mainly the Hoffman-Grove section of town.
The Passaic River Flood Advisory Committee released a to minimize flooding along the Passaic River Basin in February.
But none of thsoe efforts offered much comfort to the homeowners facing the current round of flooding, from Hurricane Irene.