Mayors Council Commits To Making Stormwater Management A Higher Priority

MILLBURN — Strong advocacy by several of the region’s environmental organizations brought a firm commitment by The Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control to make storm water management a higher priority.

At its June 27 meeting held at the Millburn Municipal Building, the Mayors Council heard from several environmental organizations it invited to the meeting to provide input on the proposed South Mountain Reservation detention dam. Representatives to the Mayors Council included Mayors, councilmen and engineers from Millburn, Union, Springfield, Cranford, Kenilworth, Garwood, Rahway and West Orange.

Representatives of organizations such as the Millburn Environmental Commission, Rahway River Association and Cranford Environmental Commission spoke on the project and stated that past poor regional planning, overdevelopment and inadequate storm water practices have contributed to regional flooding and better stormwater management practices must be the highest priority of the communities affected. Enforcement of existing rules and implementation of best practices for new development such as green standards have to be in place. The concern expressed was the development of the detention project could later be marginalized by continued inadequate storm water management.

The Mayors Council announced it will target several recommendations in the coming months to have each community consider stepping up stormwater management best practices. In July a planning group with representatives of various concerned organizations and municipal staff will meet to develop recommendations for regional action. A review of all the storm water ordinances in the watershed is already being undertaken; a request to establish a 10% reduction on municipal and school facilities of impervious surfaces has been established as a goal; and a regional conference in the Fall cosponsored by the Mayors Council, the Cranford Flood Advisory Committee and other organizations will be held.

During the meeting a presentation on the South Mountain dry detention dam was provided by Leo Coakley, Hatch Mott engineer and Dan Aschenbach, former Cranford mayor. The details on the site remain preliminary but input was provided on the environmental impacts of the project and mitigation requirements. The public hearing was for the purpose of input and was not a required hearing. As the project proceeds, state DEP will hold formal hearings as part of the regulatory requirements.

The benefits of the South Mountain dry detention dam was restated again that almost three feet in water elevation at peak storm conditions could be lowered at Millburn, Union and Springfield and almost 1.5 feet at the Kensington footbridge in Cranford.

The Mayors Council also agreed to taking a step forward on the South Mountain detention dam with an inter-local agreement to fund the legal analysis required for the project to proceed. Each of the watershed communities will report back after their governing boards have reviewed the agreement.

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