WOODLAND PARK, NJ - The mayors from Little Falls, Totowa, Wayne and Woodland Park sent a letter on April 30, with the endorsement of the Passaic Valley Regional Flood Board, to Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, opposing the reinstallation of flashboards at the top of the Great Falls in Paterson.
“The prior flashboards were removed in 2012 because they caused the waters of the Passaic River to be approximately 24-27 inches higher during high water events and did not break off as originally designed,” Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark said. “We have not seen a devastating flood since their removal and placing the flashboards back is too great a liability for our residents who are victims of flooding.”
The letter, signed by Kazmark, Little Falls Mayor James Damiano, Totowa Mayor John Coiro and Wayne Mayor Christopher Vergano, says that the company which operates the hydroelectric plant, Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, claims that they plan to use a different type of flashboard.
“We, the mayors of four municipalities that are acutely aware of the toll flooding takes on our communities, are not convinced that a ‘different’ type of flashboard will guarantee that there isn’t a repeat of past experiences when the Passaic River reaches flood stage,” the letter states.
The flashboards utilized by Algonquin Power, the former operator of the hydroelectric plant, prior to their removal in 2012, were exasperating flood issues upriver in the four towns, Mayor Kazmark notes.
Federal officials had the flashboards removed after Hurricane Irene in 2011.
While careful not to dismiss the concerns one Paterson official told TAPinto that the letter spearheaded by Kazmark “did a disservice” by going public without knowing all the facts, or taking the time to learn them.
“Eagle Creek has a long track record of success that we are very comfortable with, this is proven infrastructure that adjusts to the flow of the water,” the person who answered on the condition of anonymity so they could speak more freely said. “To suggest that we aren’t concerned about flooding, when our own neighborhoods were also deluged in Hurricane Irene is irresponsible.”
Eagle Creek Renewable Energy, based in Morristown, operates 64 facilities in the U.S. in 13 states. Eagle Creek, and the City of Paterson, which owns the property the plant sits on, filed an application with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission on Feb. 26 for a 40-year license renewal. Should the application be approved, Eagle Creek will be able to adjust the amount of water going down the Great Falls during peak visitor times.
Although Eagle Creek has send it will meet with officials to explain the different flashboards and how they operate, Mayor Kazmark noted no meeting had been yet set.
“It is our considered opinion that the river should be left to flow over the Great Falls, unimpeded,” the letter notes.
The letter from the mayors was also sent to the officials of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Sen. Kristin Corrado, and Assemblymen Kevin Rooney and Christopher DePhillips.
TAPinto Paterson Steve Lennox conrtibuted to this article.