PASSAIC RIVER FLOOD COMMISSION MEMBERS APPOINTED
(10/P39) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin today announced the appointment of the seven-member Passaic River Flood Advisory Commission, to develop and recommend solutions to chronic flooding problems in the river basin. The commission is expected to issue a final report by the end of the year.
Martin called it imperative to start the work to find solutions to a problem that has long plagued sections of Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties. Gov. Christie last month signed an executive order forming the commission in the aftermath of severe flooding during multiple March storms that buffeted the river basin, prompting evacuation of homes and business, and causing extensive property damage.
The commission is expected to identify short-term and long-term recommendations to improve flood mitigation efforts, emergency response planning and post-flood recovery response efforts.
Appointed to the new advisory agency, which is chaired by Commissioner Martin, are Assemblyman Scott Rumana; Robert Steven Prezant, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State University; John Miller, a professional engineer and certified floodplain manager from Lambertville; Pompton Lakes Mayor Kathleen Cole, Little Falls Mayor Mike Defrancisci, and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes.
"This is a knowledgeable team that will tackle the unique challenges posed by the Passaic River Basin," said Commissioner Martin. "Our goal is to help the people who live in this area, who deserve relief from anxiety, worry and the cost of repeatedly cleaning up after floods."
"There are definitely unique challenges posed by the Passaic River Basin, with its large number of rivers and streams that drain a large portion of northern New Jersey. We intend to get the facts, data and science needed to finally deal with these issues and find long-term solutions."
The executive order directs the commission to submit to the Governor a final Passaic Basin flood mitigation report with recommendations by Dec. 31.
Among its many duties, the commission will look at expanding and expediting purchases of properties in the floodway; identify areas the state could acquire for possible flood water storage and wetlands creation; reinvigorate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ study and analyses of potential engineering projects for long-term flood damage reduction; evaluate river characteristics to better predict and respond to floods; review the status and effectiveness of county and local emergency response plans; and investigate the operations of the Pompton Lake flood gates for potential impacts on downstream communities.
"The floods caused by the recent wave of winter storms drove home the point that we need to develop long-term strategies to reduce threats to property owners in the Passaic River Basin," Governor Christie said when he issued the executive order. "Hoping for the best every time a major storm hits is no longer acceptable. It’s time to take action."
The Executive Order authorizes the commission to consult with experts or other knowledgeable persons in the public or private sector on any aspect of its mission, including the existing Passaic River Basin Flood Task Force, the New Jersey congressional delegation, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The DEP also will continue to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and North Jersey District Water Supply Commission to review operations of the flood gates.
In addition, the DEP currently has dedicated approximately $31 million to Blue Acres acquisitions. Blue Acres buys properties that are vulnerable to flooding and storms to get people out of harm’s way. The DEP has developed a streamlined permit process for the removal of debris such as tree snags that can exacerbate flooding.
The DEP is also working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to secure significant funding for a variety of mitigation efforts across New Jersey, including updating flood zone mapping and performing hydrologic modeling. In some cases, this information is several decades old.