Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In Pequannock, Up a Creek and With a Stop and Shop

Current Stop & Shop fruitbowl logo, shared wit...
Current Stop & Shop fruitbowl logo, shared with Giant-Landover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Christopher Lotito

Stop & Shop recently announced that they will open a store at the old A&P site in Pompton Plains, effectively eradicating the food desert that had existed in Pequannock Township since Hurricane Irene struck in August of 2011.  However, some residents still believe it is only a matter of time before the next flood and evidence exists to support their concerns.

On June 20th 2013, Pequannock News reported a lack of progress regarding management of regional reservoir levels to prevent future flooding.  At that time, no meaningful legislation had been passed to reduce these huge stores of water which maintained at unscrupulously high levels and drained at the worst possible time at the height of floods, much to the chagrin of residents living downstream from them.  The full article is available here: http://www.pequannocknews.com/2013/06/one-year-ago-pequannock-pushes-for.html

Some have now asked if the Stop & Shop may face the same fate as the A&P.  While many factors of flooding in the region are beyond control, such as weather patterns, unethical storm-water distribution from New York State, and the unwillingness of developers to modify existing commercial sites to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding, permanent steps could be taken by the State of NJ to protect communities from future disasters.

Unfortunately, despite formulating a robust 15 point plan of action for flood mitigation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission has failed to make any updates or complete any meaningful work in flood prevention since March of 2013.

Pequannock News reviewed the Commission's progress report (which the astute reader will note consists of problems and solutions identified but not acted upon prior to Hurricane Irene) and found that no updates have been made in almost a year: http://www.nj.gov/dep/passaicriver/docs/prbfac-progress-report.pdf


  • The NJ DEP working with federal funding and municipalities throughout the region has completed a huge number of home buyouts, the majority of which were directly on the banks of the Passaic River.  This action of course does nothing to preserve communities or to prevent flooding from happening again in the future.
  • Similarly, the NJ DEP has helped complete large numbers of home elevations using federal and state financing, ensuring that if the flooding cause is not resolved, generations of future homeowners will still have to evacuate their homes due to high waters, putting themselves and emergency workers in the path of danger.
  • The NJ DEP, under pressure from Pequannock and others, has finally agreed not to remove the historic feeder dams along the old Morris Canal, which have been found to actually provide additional flood storage for Pequannock and downstream communities.  This is good news, but no effort has been made or is planned to de-silt and maintain these structures in order to restore their water storage capacity to what it once was.


This list goes on, but fails to go anywhere meaningful.  Despite a lack of updates to the public, funds have continued to be available for municipalities to complete localized river and stream maintenance, removing fallen trees and other potential snags from the waterway.  That's good news, but it's not enough.  Without a comprehensive overhaul of the Passaic River waterways, whether from channelization, flood walls, or a true dredging of the river, Stop & Shop and other businesses along the river are only borrowing the land from mother nature in between floods.

That no updates have been made to either the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission website (http://www.nj.gov/dep/passaicriver/) or to the progress report sends a clear message that flood control is no longer a priority for the NJ DEP, a message sure to be poorly received by the thousands of homeowners still living in the flood zones of the Passaic River Basin.

Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock Historic District and Open Space 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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