As many of you will undoubtedly recall — perhaps some experienced it first-hand — last March the Passaic River was raging with floods, which engulfed hundreds of houses and forced many residents to evacuate. As seen in the video above, filmed in the midst of the 2010 tumult by Baristanet reporter and Passaic River anthologist Wheeler Antabanez, the river’s ferocity was a force to be contended with and of serious concern to residents, local and state officials.
Yesterday, eight months after the formation of Governor Christie’s Passaic River Flood Advisory Commission (which includes Robert Steven Prezant, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State), a comprehensive plan to deal with floods in the Passaic River Basin was unveiled.
The 15-point package of recommendations includes enhanced efforts to buy flood-prone properties, elevate homes in flood areas, improve the operation of the Pompton Lake floodgates, increase river de-snagging and shoal dredging efforts, create larger flood water storage areas, steer future development away from flood zones, create better water flow in Passaic Basin rivers, and directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to expedite permits for county and municipal projects aimed at eliminating or reducing flooding.
The DEP currently has $31 million dedicated to Blue Acres acquisitions statewide, with much of that money earmarked for Passaic River Basin properties. The Blue Acres program buys properties that are vulnerable to flooding and storms to get people out of harm’s way. The DEP is processing applications for 23 Blue Acres purchases of properties in floodprone areas of the Passaic River Basin, as part of an ongoing effort to target such properties, with an additional 54 Basin properties pending FEMA approval.
“There is no ‘silver bullet’ that can stop flooding in the Passaic River Basin. We cannot change the course that nature has set for this heavily developed region. Dealing with this issue will be a long-term effort,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, who also chairs the Flood Commission. “But we have created a package of small and large solutions to mitigate flood damage that affects the lives of so many of Passaic River Basin residents each year. And we are committed to moving forward with these recommendations, starting immediately, to help relieve people’s anxiety, worry and the costs of repeatedly cleaning up.”
Above photo of a residential street in Little Falls, by Michael Guerin.