By Brenda Flanagan
“You still have to worry every time it rains. Because this is Bound Brook. You’re always worried about the floods,” said Ken Fulop.
Shirtless in the oppressive heat, Bound Brook resident Fulop recalled the repeated floods that over the years inundated his house on East Second Street — Irene, the Nor’easter of 2007, Floyd. Lately, he can’t look away from water rescues in Baton Rouge.
“You’ve seen what happened in Louisiana, right? I’m watching on the news as we speak. You know? Hit them with 31 inches of rain. God forbid we got that,” he said.
“Bound Brook is now protected. That’s what today is all about,” said NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin.
Officials today offered residents like Fulop reassurance, announcing the Bound Brook phase of a multi-step Army Corps of Engineers flood management project officially complete. The governor’s office says Bound Brook’s section cost $143 million. Construction started 17 years ago, shortly after Floyd sent a river running 12 feet deep down Main Street.
“Water all over Main Street,” said Mayor Bob Fazen. “The people were crying all the time. What should we do? What can we do?”
The Corps built 8,500 feet of levees, 1,500 feet of flood walls, plus floodgates and pumping stations here, to help control and redirect the Raritan River, Middle Brook and multiple other streams and tributaries that pour into the flood-prone, basin-shaped area. The whole plan — called the Green Brook Flood Risk Management Project — affects 13 towns and is rehabilitating Bound Brook’s bad reputation as a flood risk zone.
“Without the peril of flooding, Bound Brook is moving forward with redevelopment, improved transit operations, implementation of the theater district and we express profound gratitude to all agencies who have made this project a reality,” Fazen said.
“FEMA has validated that this project is effective, and as a result, residents of Bound Brook will no longer be required to have flood insurance,” Martin said.
Martin said the DEP recommends residents keep some flood insurance, just for safety. Gov. Chris Christie noted the project gives residents something even more valuable.
“They’re all concerned the next time it rains, the next time they hear any report of flooding that the same awful things are going to happen again. And so these projects will help to restore that peace of mind to people so they’ll know if another storm comes that we’re much more resilient and much better protected than we were before,” Christie said.
“They’ve done a great job but Mother Nature is a funny thing to deal with,” Fulop said. “I’m still scared. Yeah. You can’t control it, you know?”
When it’s complete, the project will protect 65 square miles of interconnected floodplain. But that’ll take another eight years and cost another couple hundred million dollars more. Getting the funding is another bridge they’ll have to cross.