Pequannock Flood Desnagging Commences

Pequannock DPW employees start desnagging along
the Morris Canal Guard Bank. Credit: Dave Battaglia
Thursday February 9th 2012, work began in Pequannock on the removal of trees and other debris from the rivers.  Extensive work was done to create vehicle access points to the river in accordance with DEP regulations so that trees could be removed from the water.  Much of the work took place at Carlson Place, pictured right.

Department of Public Works employees had already been taking advantage of the break in the weather to remove blockages from local streams and drainage ditches throughout the township, a process which is more inexpensive and requires fewer permits.  Some of these streams included Demott's Brook behind PV Park Lake and Spring Brook in the center of The Village section.  Of course, work on desnagging the river itself might have been completed as early as July of 2011 had the state DEP provided Pequannock with the required permits in a timely fashion, as noted in a letter sent by the Pequannock Township Council to Governor Christie in August of 2011, prior to Hurricane Irene.

Faced with a larger number of new trees downed and old snags moved along with a nearly $1,000,000 garbage bill, courtesy of Hurricane Irene, Pequannock has created a new model for other townships to follow in its flood mitigation efforts.  After numerous meetings with state officials, the township secured $350,000 in state funds to remove blockages from rivers in Wayne, Riverdale, Pompton Lakes, and of course Pequannock and Pompton Plains.  Pequannock itself has been charged with leadership and coordination of the project.

While $350,000 may seem like a good step forward, in reality it's little more than a nudge in the right direction.  With trash hauling alone coming in at a million dollars, it has become abundantly clear that neither the residents of the flood affected townships in the Passaic Valley, nor the insurers and government entities who bail them out, can afford to pay for flooding over and over again.  This desnagging project is necessary, but regional flood experts say that it is only a small step in a much larger effort of flood prevention, an effort that received no mention in either Christie's State of the State Address or Obama's State of the Union Address.

For towns like Pequannock, more flood storage needs to be created locally, by restoring existing Morris Canal infrastructure and creating retention basins in sites such as the Aquatic Park and Topsoil Depot.  In Pompton Lakes, a partial answer lies in changing the timing that the dam opens and closes.  Further north, reservoirs need to be lowered in advance of storms, and still further north at the state line, federal intervention needs to address the fact that New York State has no legal requirement to avoid flooding New Jersey with its stormwater.  That last is perhaps the most important and most daunting, as New York State did not even have stormwater management requirements for developers until this past decade.

What's lacking is not a solution.  Dr. Henry B. Kummel, State Geologist proposed solutions to flooding in the Passaic Valley in 1903.  Cornelius C. Vermeule, engineer for the Morris Canal proposed still more solutions in the next decade and his son carried on his legacy into the 1940's.  Since then New Jersey has had plans drawn up for flood tunnels, retention basins, levees, and a number of other ideas, all great.  What's lacking is a politician who will see those projects funded and completed, something that many residents with damp basements plan to remedy starting with the next election cycle.

Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock EnvironmentalHistoric District, and Flood Control Advisory Commissions as well as the author of  "Torrent," a book about flooding in the region.  Lotito's personal mission is to reduce new taxes, drastically reduce flooding, and preserve more green spaces for our children.  Christopher Lotito Profile

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