A comprehensive plan to minimize flooding along the Passaic River Basin was released Thursday 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.
“We cannot change the course that nature has set for this heavily developed region,” commission chairman Bob Martin said in a statement; Martin is also commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “But we have created a package of small and large solutions to mitigate flood damage that affects the lives of so many Passaic River Basin residents each year.”
The buyout process of homes located within the Passaic River Basin will be expanded and expedited with funds from the State Blue Acres fund and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The Blue Acres program buys properties that are vulnerable to flooding to keep residents safe. The DEP is currently processing 23 applications for Blue Acres purchases in flood-prone areas of the Passaic River Basin; another 54 applications are waiting to be approved by FEMA. The DEP has $31 million dedicated to Blue Acres acquisitions statewide, with, according to a press release issued by the DEP, “much of that money earmarked for Passaic River Basin properties.”
Residents who do not sell to the government will be encouraged to elevate their houses.
Feeder dams in the Pompton and Pequannock rivers will be removed to provide flood relief to Wayne, Pompton Lakes and Pequannock.
“These small dams do have a localized impact during rainfall events. Removing these structures will benefit the area,” said David Rosenblatt, an engineering and construction administrator with DEP said. “It means there will be some help in deterring flooding events from happening.”
Municipalities located in the basin will be encouraged to enhance their master plans with zoning-and flood-prevention ordinances to discourage future development in high-risk flood areas.
Floodplain maps will be updated to include new, detailed modeling of the area.
The plan also calls for more public involvement about flood issues and improving the Passaic River flood warning system, which is controlled by the New Jersey State Police’s Office of Emergency Management.
The season’s harsh weather has put the state in a “precarious position” for flooding when the snow melts, according to State Climatologist .
What New Jersey doesn’t want is for all of the several inches of snow that has fallen recently to “melt in short order due to warm weather,” Robinson said.
“Until we see grass starting to appear, it’s going to be a major concern,” he said.
Rep. Pascrell said in a statement that “we must redouble federal and state efforts to increase funding towards the top three recommendations of today’s report: property buyouts, elevation of homes and the preservation of natural flood storage areas.”
The Commission's complete plan, with a more detailed accounting of the recommendations, can be viewed here.
For more information on the Passaic River Flood Advisory Commission click here.