DEP Moves Forward with Plans to Mitigate Floods

By Desiree Taylor

Flood mitigation plans are moving forward. That’s what New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin told a group of mayors from flood prone communities in the Passaic River Basin. One part of the 15-point plan is to acquire or elevate 540 residential properties. They include 58 properties in Wayne, 46 in Lincoln Park, 20 in Pompton Lakes and one in Little Falls. The DEP has begun appraisals and it expects to make offers to owners in the coming weeks and months. Former Little Falls Mayor Michael DeFrancisi described the buyouts as a “double edged sword” because the tax base will be adversely impacted if a large number of homeowners take buyouts and leave town.

The 15-point flood mitigation plans, recommended by the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission in 2011, include short term measures such as updating emergency response plans and flood risk mapping as well as removing snags and debris that can exacerbate flooding. There are also long-term structural projects planned to enhance or modify levees, flood walls, bridges and dams. The DEP commissioner believes these steps will help mitigate flooding, but he admits they won’t completely solve the problem.

DEP officials also released the findings of what they say was an independent scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of the Pompton Lake Dam’s flood gates. Commissioner Martin says AECOM, a leading consulting engineering firm, determined the flood gates did not increase downstream flooding in the central part of the basin. And the study concluded that the lowering of the Pompton Lake just prior to Tropical Storm Irene did not affect the storm’s flooding impacts.