Rahway River Watershed Flood Control Group Meets Thursday

UNION TOWNSHIP — The Mayors Council Rahway River Watershed Flood Control will meet Thursday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. in the Union Township Municipal Building to discuss objectives for 2014 and the next steps on the Rahway River flood mitigation effort.

Union Mayor Clifton People, who will host the meeting of representatives of nine communities, said “We welcome the Mayors to Union Township to discuss making process on a regional flood mitigation plan.”

The mayors are waiting on the US Army Corps of Engineers and New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) economic analysis of the seven alternatives being studied for flood mitigation. The results of the evaluation, originally expected at the end of 2013, are expected soon.

“Communities along the river faced upwards of $100 million of damages caused by Irene”, said Cranford Mayor Andis Kalnins. “We believe that a regional plan to mitigate what was experienced during Irene and what will come from a next major storm has to have a sense of urgency to get done”.

The US Army Corps evaluated the hydrological benefits of seven major flood mitigation alternatives and they now are in the process of completing the benefit cost assessment on each. Federal law requires review of alternatives and the project with the strongest benefits-cost ratio (benefits have to outweigh costs more than one times) is the project selected for review. Afterwards the selected alternative goes through a comprehensive environmental review. The alternatives include:

  • Alternative one- raising the Lenape Park dam and levees with channelization.
  • Alternative two-raising Lenape Park dam and levees and less channelization
  • Alternative three-excavation of Orange reservoir and gate opening¬†
  • Alternative four-Minor modification of Orange reservoir and channelization
  • Alternative five-South Mountain Regional Dry Detention Basin and channelization
  • Alternative six-South Mountain Regional Dry Detention Basin without channelization¬†
  • Non-structural alternatives
  • Storage solutions for the Robinson’s Branch in Rahway

The study which was originally started in 2002 languished until after Hurricane Irene, when the Mayors Council and adept representation from US Sen. Robert Menendez, the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Congressman Leonard Lance began advocating for full funding to get the US Army Corps to give Rahway River flood mitigation its priority. The Mayors Council expects to introduce U.S. Senator Cory Booker in February to the issue facing the communities.

Included on the February 6 agenda are: an update on the US Army Corp alternatives economic analysis; a plan for US Army Corps and DEP to accelerate review including use of the already approved state funding of $350,000 to perform environmental assessment of the selected alternative and review of City of Orange well water protection. Fourteen of the region’s state legislators and the Union County and Essex County Freeholder Board have urged the state funding the review. The agenda of the February 6 meeting also includes: a proposal to create a Joint Meeting organization; and an update on the Join the 1000 Rahway River Watershed Rain Garden campaign and proposed model storm water ordinance.

The Mayors Council includes: Millburn Mayor Robert Tillotson; Cranford Mayor Andis Kalnins; Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca; Springfield Mayor Richard Huber; Rahway Mayor Samuel Steinman; Union Mayor Clifton People; Winfield Mayor Margaret McManus; Kenilworth Mayor Kathi Fiamingo and Garwood Mayor Patricia Quattrocchi.

Tillotson said, “We believe the US Army Corps has done a significant evaluation of the various alternatives. We have pointed out that the South Mountain Regional Detention Basin is key to a regional plan and has significant hydrology benefits lowering river water elevations during peak storms significantly. We need the state to continue to support our efforts to find a strong mitigation measure. We are concerned about the next major storm.”

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