March 6, 2014 at 12:18 PM
MAPLEWOOD, NJ – In response to proposals made in a feasibility study by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to ease future flooding of the Rahway River Basin, Fred Profeta and a group of like-minded civic leaders have created an organization to fight the construction of a 880-foot wide and 70-foot high dam in the South Mountain Reservation. A dam would radically alter the reservation’s landscape, ecosystem and usability as a recreational area.
The group has created a Facebook page, “Save our Reservation,” to inform people about the situation and rally opposition to the dam.
“If the river were running its natural course, and no one had built in the flood plain, we wouldn’t have a problem,” Profeta said. However, over the course of many years, much building has done in both Cranford and Millburn in areas frequently flooded by heavy storms.
The dam proposal is one of seven options presented in the USACE study, and is the one causing the most apprehension among local residents.
“The seven recommendations of the Army are now on the Governor’s desk,” Profeta said. “We highly suspect that the Army favors the two options that include the dam.” He noted the input of the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control, which consists of: Millburn Mayor Robert Tillotson; Cranford Mayor Andis Kalnins; Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca; Springfield MayorRichard Huber; Rahway Mayor Samuel Steinman; Union Mayor Clifton People; Winfield Mayor Margaret McManus; Kenilworth Mayor Kathi Fiamingo and Garwood Mayor Patricia Quattrocchi.
“Former Cranford Mayor Dan Aschenbach has been driving the process,” Profeta said. “No one appointed the Mayor’s Council and no one on the Mayors’ Council appointed Dan Aschenbach.” He went on to say that the USACE has said that they have solicited public opinion on the matter, but it seems as if Aschenbach’s input may be all they have thus far. The new “Save our Reservation” group is an effort to bring more of the public’s views into the debate.
If the dam were to be built, Brookside Drive would be wiped out, and the dam would have to hold back hundreds of millions of gallons of water, very close to the Paper Mill Playhouse. The new detention basin would border residential areas of Short Hills.
Regardless of Governor Christie’s decision, the next step would be further study on the costs, benefits and environmental impact of the options. The eventual timetable is unknown, as is the cost and how it would be funded.
Profeta will soon meet with Congressman Donald Payne and Assemblyman John McKeon to discuss the plans.
Others working with Profeta on this effort include Dennis Percher of the South Mountain Conservancy, South Orange Trustee Walter Clarke, Bob McCoy of the Maplewood’s Environmental Advisory Committee, Tracy Woods of the Maplewood Green Team, Tom Carlson of the Maplewood Planning Board, and Jen Duckworth of the Essex County Environmental Commission.
“We’re having a meeting of volunteers next week,” Profeta said. “We’re going to focus on getting the towns in the area to come out against this. The people who live in these towns are heavy users of the reservation. If people knew what was going on, they would want to get involved.”
Link to the Save our Reservation Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurReservation