Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In Pequannock, Threats of Flooding Still Cause for Concern

By Christopher Lotito

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Rising waters threaten Pequannock homes
(Photo credit: Christopher Lotito)
Pequannock High School may be wrapping up the year giving snow days back to the students, despite days lost to Hurricane Irene last Fall, but many feel the threat of flooding in Pequannock is still very real.

Late Wednesday, New Jersey state officials announced a grant of 2-million-dollars to help flood prone residents in Little Falls and Pompton Lakes.  That 2-million is slated to assist with the buyout of numerous homes within the flood areas of both communities, though as a matching grant each community will bear a cost of about $250,000 in order to utilize the funds.

In Pequannock, buyouts have been much maligned during the recent Council election, with some candidates supporting further buyouts and others calling for a moratorium on these types of purchases.  Still, the threat of flooding looms large as reactionary measures like buyouts do nothing to remove or reduce the floods, but instead scour families, neighborhoods, and tax-ratables from the towns effected.

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 (Photo credit: Christopher Lotito)
Several candidates as well as office-holders in Pequannock have discussed the possibility of local flood mitigation efforts, but funds and sites have yet to be determined for these measures and the state has been unsupportive.  Pequannock has worked extensively to clear streams and river snags with the modest funding available, but there is only so much that the township has been able to complete without greater support from the state.

Representatives of the Pequannock Flood Committee, who have become experts on Christie's 15 Point Flood Mitigation Plan, have noted at several meetings the hostile attitude displayed by many state representatives to suggestions which do not fall within those 15 Points.  The 15 Points themselves, have mainly to do with additional studies, improved mapping, and better flood notification systems, leaving the actual number of actions which would reduce flooding far shy of the advertised 15.

Even the buyout monies provided suffer from serious ethical considerations.  For example, a recent dispute over the number of homes to be bought locally was in part the result of bad math, many feel on the part of the state.  Whereas Pequannock's Open Space Commission, which oversees the buyout process, has prided itself on paying near or at market value for homes, the State of New Jersey has no misgivings about paying significantly less.  When the State of New Jersey writes a check for 1-million-dollars, they are likely to see that as 10 homes, whereas Pequannock is more likely to see that as closer to 5.

As Pequannock nears the 9 month mark since the flooding disaster, with families who have still not re-occupied their homes, one can only marvel at the bureaucratic engine that can produce a 15 Point Flood Plan which fails in large part to reduce Pequannock's threat of flooding, to say nothing of the broad lack of funding for even the most basic measures.

Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock Historic 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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