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RELEASE: 9/10/01

CONTACT: Loretta O'Donnell or Amy Collings
(609) 984-1795 or 609-292-2994

Project will improve water quality and open space in Union/Allen street area

RAHWAY --Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Shinn today awarded $147,500 for restorations along the Rahway River in the city's Union and Allen street area, once a chronically flooded neighborhood.

"This grant is the next step in a series of partnerships among all levels of government and the private sector that will turn a problem flood area into a beneficial and attractive open space with a park-like setting that will improve the river's water quality, as well as the local quality of life," Shinn said. "The City of Rahway, which initiated this proactive project, is to be commended, along with the many partners, for this endeavor which will serve as a model on how to restore urban, flood-prone properties to benefit a community."

Shinn presented a $45,000 advance check to the American Littoral Society-NY/NJ Baykeeper, the lead agency for the two-year Rahway project that will restore a five-acre wetlands area. The restoration will improve water quality at the head of tide in the North Branch of the Rahway River, near the confluence with Robinson's Branch.

Andrew J Willner, director of NY/NJ Baykeeper said, "This kind of public private partnership involving local communities may be the only way we can restore urban stream corridors and other wildlife resources. When the public participates in wildlife habitat and open space restoration they become invested in their river, stream or bay".

By restoring the wetlands, the project will help filter pollutants from storm water runoff and will provide for storm water retention to minimize flooding. It also will provide for public access to the river for recreation and watershed education, and will provide wildlife habitat. The area is planned to be added to the Union County Park System's Rahway River Parkway as a gift to the Open Space Trust.

"By restoring wetlands along the Rahway we increase wildlife resources and community access to a new river park," said Dery Bennett, executive director of the American Littoral Society.

The project includes regrading, installing piping and riprap to prevent erosion, and planting native species vegetation to optimize pollutant removal. Volunteers will be recruited to plant the vegetation and conduct monitoring. The vegetation will be maintained to ensure long-term survival.

The funding is administered by DEP's Division of Watershed Management as part of a nonpoint source pollution grant program under the federal Clean Water Act. The Rahway River is part of the Arthur Kill Watershed Management Area 7 in the Raritan Watershed Region. Union County last year signed a contract with DEP and received funding to lead the development of a comprehensive management plan for the Rahway, Elizabeth rivers and Arthur Kill watershed (Area 7) which covers 250 square miles in parts of Union, Hudson, Essex and Middlesex counties.

Other partners in the Rahway project include: the Rahway River Association, Union County Division of Engineering and Bureau of Parks Operations, Omni Environmental Corporation, NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program, DEP's Green Acres Program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), NJ State Police, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The total cost for the construction of the entire project is estimated at $500.000. The partners have requested funding from several sources including Union County, the NJ Wetlands Mitigation Council and the Merck Foundation. With funding assistance from the Wetlands Mitigation Council, the city completed the project design and obtained the necessary permits.

The City of Rahway had secured $750,000 in DEP Green Acres funding and funds from FEMA through the NJ State Police, Emergency Management, to purchase and demolish several homes located along this section of the river that had been frequently damaged by flooding. The city then prepared a concept plan and preliminary design for the restoration. The Rahway River Association will assist with construction and long-term monitoring of this project.



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