By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Sen. Bob Menendez joined Union County mayors and others to announce he has secured another half million dollars in the new Obama budget for flood mitigation in the Rahway River watershed.
The Rahway River runs from West Orange through Maplewood, Cranford, Rahway and into the Arthur Kill and has several branches.
After big storms, the entire basin is susceptible to floods.
Area mayors went to Washington five months ago for help.
“I told them that this was my number one priority in terms of the Army Corps of Engineers funding, that we try to pursue in Washington and we are here today to begin to talk about our progress towards that success for 82 miles from the Watchung Ridge, east to the Oranges in Essex County, south to Edison Township in Middlesex County, the Rahway River runs through it,” Menendez said.
A million dollars in federal funds, plus a state match of $1 million already secured, will fund the studies needed to design a solution.
Part of that will be to enlarge the Orange Reservoir that sits at the top of the river.
When asked how bad the flooding is, Union Township Mayor Manuel Figueiredo said, “It can get very bad in some of these storms. It just comes swooshing down and the embankments are not enough to hold it. Therefore it comes up and over and goes into the sides, into the houses, the streets.”
“Climatologists are saying that these storms are gonna be more frequent and more vicious and more devastating and that’s because of two words — two words that are not said by any official in the state of New Jersey in any department unfortunately — and that’s climate change,” said Sen. Ray Lesniak.
The flooding has been plaguing this region for years and has only gotten worse with development.
“We all watched a weather report, we were gonna have three feet of snow and we ran out to the supermarket and had this fear of Snowmageddon and what it could mean. The reality is that the people who live along this basin and the Rahway River for the 82-mile stretch live in fear of the weather forecast each and every day,” said Assemblyman Joe Cryan.
“Millburn, the water elevation at peak period would be 2.6 feet lower in their downtown. That’d be enormous,” said Former Cranford Mayor Dan Aschenbach.
If you live in the Rahway River watershed, flood relief appears to be on the way. Officials say the studies could be complete in 2016, and enlarging the storage capacity of this reservoir perhaps a year later.