Pequannock Blues, Hurricane Irene 2 Years On: Part I

By Christopher Lotito
What's left of a lifetime of personal possessions spread
out as trash post-Irene on Village Rd. in Pequannock Tsp.

Pequannock Blues, Hurricane Irene 2 Years On: Part I

In August of 2011, thousands of Pequannock residents were affected and displaced by the preventable tragedy of Hurricane Irene and the flooding that ensued.  Today, Pequannock News works to keep their story alive and make it available for those who have the power to change our situation and end repetitive flooding in Pequannock.

Pequannock's colors are the blue and the gold and this seems a natural choice.  The blue is evocative of the meandering streams and river that traverse the valley, home to some of the best brown trout fishing on the East Coast, one of several factors that made Pequannock a resort community in decades past.  The gold may seem a surprise at first, but not when the town is viewed from Mountainside Park in early Spring, when golden grasses and shoots pop up all across the valley.  What is it Robert Frost once said?  "Natures' first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold..."  That's all we're trying to do in Pequannock, to hold on to what we have and to share it with the next generation, as our parents did for us.  We have a slice of paradise here and it's true, it's not so big a slice as in some other places, but it's our slice and ours to safeguard and pass on down the line when the time comes.
Flooding on Jackson looking towards Rt. 23
during Hurricane Irene.

Many Pequannock residents who view the moving images which still pour in from the Hurricane Sandy devastated Jersey shore have a special place in their heart for these victims of disaster because Pequannock has survived a recent disaster as well.

In August of 2011, Pequannock was devastated by Hurricane Irene, whose rains resulted in flooding that affected the entire community.  During that time, I was serving on Pequannock's Flood Committee and more recently have served on Pequannock's Open Space Committee in order to gain a better understanding of the flood buyouts that we're completing using State and County funding.  If you're concerned about flooding and policy in Pequannock, there are about 5 groups* whose work you'll be interested in:


  • The Pequannock Township Flood Committee handles a lot of the lobbying to local and regional politicians, encouraging them to continue funding flood mitigation programs and ensuring that the public has a voice.  They also bring a lot of information back to the residents.
  • The Pequannock Township Open Space Committee has been engaged in completing flood buyouts in the township using money that became available as a result of Hurricane Irene to establish an attractive green zone as a natural buffer along the river, reducing the township's risk of catastrophic flooding.
  • The Pequannock Planning and Zoning Boards provide much of the voice to determine what flood-resistant architecture will be the standard in Pequannock in the future, including what the setbacks need to be for elevated homes, how builders can comply with State flood home-elevation regulations while creating an attractive facade, etc. They are of course aided in this by the Township Engineer and the Construction Department.
  • The Pequannock Township Council is and always will be the primary face of Pequannock's flood affected at the County and State political levels, ensuring that flood victims as well as all of Pequannock's residents receive consideration at freeholder events, budget meetings, barbecues, and inaugurations for as long as flooding is a problem in Pequannock.


Note: As an aside, the Parks and Recreation Department takes control of the majority of the open space which is acquired by the Open Space Committee through flood buyout programs and is the steward of those properties, addressing the recreation needs of the township, so they also play a part. 
No rest for residents on Madison St. in Pequannock
returning from vacations to clean up their lives and their
homes.

What progress has been made on Christie's 15 Point Flood Mitigation Plan, handed down in the wake of several years of worse than normal seasonal flooding in January of 2011 and well before August's Hurricane Irene?  Pequannock News has provided a bevy of information and updates on this topic before, but frankly, progress over the past few months has stymied in the face of increased focus on local buyouts and a less than surprising focus on Hurricane Sandy relief.

In Part II we'll look at the latest and greatest from the Christie Administration's DEP in addressing a longstanding flooding problem in North Jersey.

*By no means exhaustive.  Citizens interested in the specific duties and activities of a given Commission, should attend a meeting.  In general, Committees / Commissions have no legislative power, as that is held by the Council.  Commissions receive a very modest budget each year, Committees do not. -- This list addresses flood policy, flood response is handled differently and by different agencies.

In addition to Pequannock News, Christopher Lotito is the author of the pop-business book, "Craigslist for Heroes, Rogues, and Middle Management"  If you've ever wondered how to sell anything from a Clydesdale to a Buick for as much as possible using only duct tape, your wits, and the world's most popular online classifieds site, this is the book for you!  (Clydesdales, make gas.  Buicks, use gas.)

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