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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2011

Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795

PASSAIC RIVER FLOOD ADVISORY COMMISSION ISSUES 15-POINT PLAN TO
MITIGATE IMPACT OF FLOODS IN MORRIS, PASSAIC AND BERGEN COUNTIES

(11/P16) TRENTON - A comprehensive plan to deal with floods in the Passaic River Basin was unveiled today by Governor Christie's Passaic River Flood Advisory Commission, targeting steps to reduce flooding, minimize the impacts of floods, better prepare for the periodic flooding and improve efforts to help flood victims.

It is the culmination of an eight-month effort by the Advisory Commission, as directed by Governor Christie through Executive Order 23, to consider the causes and impacts of flooding, and to come up with potential long- and short-term remedies to help minimize a problem that has long impacted many towns, communities and residents of Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties.

"This is a positive step forward, with a realistic plan aimed at dealing with an issue that has long plagued so many residents of Passaic, Morris and Bergen counties, who need relief from the constant worry of having their lives and livelihoods disrupted by flooding,'' said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, who also chairs the Flood Commission.

The 15-point package of recommendations includes enhanced efforts to buy flood-prone properties, elevate homes in flood areas, improve the operation of the Pompton Lake floodgates, increase river de-snagging and shoal dredging efforts, create larger flood water storage areas, steer future development away from flood zones, create better water flow in Passaic Basin rivers, and directs the DEP to expedite permits for county and municipal projects aimed at eliminating or reducing flooding.

"There is no 'silver bullet' that can stop flooding in the Passaic River Basin. We cannot change the course that nature has set for this heavily developed region. Dealing with this issue will be a long-term effort,'' said Commissioner Martin. "But we have created a package of small and large solutions to mitigate flood damage that affects the lives of so many of Passaic River Basin residents each year. And we are committed to moving forward with these recommendations, starting immediately, to help relieve people's anxiety, worry and the costs of repeatedly cleaning up.''

The Advisory Commission's comprehensive plan recommends:
1) Expanding and expediting floodway buyouts, with State Blue Acres funds and FEMA funds.
2) Encouraging home elevation projects in flood prone areas if acquisition is not an option.
3) Buying undeveloped land for use as flood storage areas.
4) Improving operation of the Pompton Lakes dam floodgates.
5) Initiating de-snagging and shoal dredging efforts to facilitate improved river flows.
6) Removing feeder dams to offer flood relief to Pompton Lakes, Wayne and Pequannock.
7) State adoption of National Flood Insurance Program regulations to ensure state rules are consistent with local flood control ordinances, and eliminating the risk that FEMA could suspend its flood insurance program in New Jersey.
8) Expediting the DEP's permit process to let towns more quickly obtain permits to de-snag and remove river debris, repair retaining walls and remove shoals.
9) Improving effectiveness and efficiency of county and local emergency response plans.
10) Enhancing the Passaic River flood warning system.
11) Contracting with the National Weather Service to create inundation maps to provide critical information to enable quicker flood projections and greater storm preparedness.
12) Enhancing public involvement, information and outreach on flood issues.
13) Requesting a re-evaluation by the Army Corps of Engineers of the larger potential major engineering projects for long-term flood damage reduction.
14) Updating floodplain mapping to eliminate decades-old maps that do not include detailed modeling of floodplains.
15) Having towns in the Passaic River Basin pursue flood risk reduction changes to their master plans, zoning ordinances and flood prevention ordinances, to guide future development away from floodplains or prevent future development in these high risk flood-prone areas.

The cost of implementing these recommendations varies significantly. But there is money available to at least begin all 15 points.

The DEP currently has $31 million dedicated to Blue Acres acquisitions statewide, with much of that money earmarked for Passaic River Basin properties. The Blue Acres program buys properties that are vulnerable to flooding and storms to get people out of harm's way. The DEP is currently processing applications for 23 Blue Acres purchases of properties in floodprone areas of the Passaic River Basin, as part of an ongoing effort to target such properties, with an additional 54 Basin properties pending FEMA approval.

"The collaborative efforts of local, state, and federal agencies were paramount in developing the comprehensive plan to mitigate flooding in the Passaic River Basin, said State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes, who is a member of the Flood Commission. "The goal of the commission was to produce a plan that seeks to provide temporary as well as some long-term relief for the municipalities affected by the periodic flooding that occurs in that area.''

The Passaic River watershed is about 935 square miles, with 84 percent located in New Jersey and the remainder in New York State. The Passaic River has seven major tributaries: the Whippany, Rockaway, Pompton, Pequannock, Wanaque, Ramapo, and Saddle rivers.

Governor Christie in April, 2010, signed an executive order creating the Passaic River Flood Commission in the aftermath of severe flooding during multiple March, 2010 storms that buffeted the river basin, prompting evacuation of homes and business, and causing extensive property damage. The goal of the Commission was to develop and recommend solutions to minimize the impact of chronic flooding problems that have long plagued the basin.

In addition to Commissioner Martin and Superintendent Fuentes, Flood Commission members include; 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, and Little Falls Mayor Mike Defrancisci.

The Commission's complete plan, with a more detailed accounting of the recommendations, can be viewed at: http://www.nj.gov/dep/passaicriver/docs/passaic-report201101.pdf

For more information of the Passaic River Flood Advisory Commission, visit:
www.nj.gov/dep/passaicriver/

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