A Torrent of Flood Concerns at Chris Christie's Town Hall Meeting

2.9.11ChrisChristieTownHallByLuigiNovi25Image via WikipediaFormer Fairfield Mayor, Anna Marie Rotonda was awash in applause, waiting for the audience to subside as she queried Governor Christie about New Jersey's flooding problems at a town hall meeting on February 13th.

Rotonda stated, "Our residents and businesses in Fairfiled and surrounding towns have suffered enormous losses and damage to their property costing hundreds of millions of dollars in loss of homes and properties... 28 years ago the army corps documented construction of a jetty at Two Bridges Road to reverse the flow of the Passaic and the Pompton River, when will this be addressed?... these rivers and waterways ...need immediate dredging to restore channel beds which impede the natural flow of the river from pine brook to beatties dam in little falls. 12 years ago the army corps of engineers documented that modifying beatties dam reducing the height installation of the floodgates upstream of the dam ...a lack of implementation of these measures will contribute to [continued flooding]..." <The amateur video which provided this quotation later became unavailable.>

Christie appeared receptive to the comments, stating that he was in support of dredging the Passaic River, but noting that federal authorities needed to consider more complete solutions to flooding in the region.  This moderate response was heartening to flood-weary residents who had noted with dismay the lack of focus on flooding in either Christie's State of the State Address or Obama's State of the Union speech.  Yet, without politicians who are devoted to funding a flooding fix and with another period of seasonal flooding on the horizon, many are skeptical that progress has been made.

While funding for large projects remains undeniably sparse, the true tale of flood relief in New Jersey is told with some certainty in monthly updates issued by the Christie formed Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission, which has been charged with assembling and pursuing a 15 point plan for flood mitigation in the region.

More tellingly, the monthly update to the 15 point plan is available here:

That report tells of several projects which have received a great deal of progress (such as upgrading the flood monitoring stations), some which have received almost no progress (pursuing federal support for a flood relief program other than buyouts), and a few which seem ill-considered (removing existing flood storage offered by the Morris Canal).

In this one document, New Jersey's efforts to help its flood stricken residents become admirably transparent:  Clint Eastwood had the "good, the bad, and the ugly," New Jersey flood relief reads like a script for the "on hold, the defunded, and the damp."

Meanwhile, the Pequannock Township managed project to desnag the Passaic River in Wayne, Pompton Lakes, Riverdale, and of course Pequannock is full speed ahead with $350,000 in funding from the federal government, so it's not all bad news.  In Pequannock, residents are now also more aware of what steps they need to take to protect their home during a flood and many are using their insurance payouts towards flood proofing upgrades like tiled-floors and raised utilities and electric, largely a result of education efforts by the Pequannock Flood Committee.

Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock EnvironmentalHistoric District, Open Space, 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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