The Mayors Council Rahway River Watershed Flood Control recently announced progress at finding flood mitigation measures including a major step: the announcement recently by the US Army Corps of Engineers that it will complete the next stage of the evaluation by September this year in selecting the initial alternative for flood mitigation on the Rahway River. The Mayors also expect to put forward their own proposal for federal funding. Communities along the river faced upwards of $100 million of damages caused by Irene.
The US Army Corps evaluated the hydrological benefits of the seven alternatives and now are in the process of completing the cost benefit assessment on each. Federal law requires review of alternatives and the project with the strongest cost-benefits ratio (benefits have to outweigh costs more than one times) is the project selected for review. The alternatives include:
*Alternative one- raising the Lenape Park dam and levees with channelization.
*Alternative two-raising Lenape Park dam and levees and less channelization
*Alternative three-excavation of Orange reservoir and gate opening (already rejected)
*Alternative four-Minor modification of Orange reservoir and channelization
*Alternative five-South Mountain Regional Dry Detention Basin and channelization
*Alternative six-South Mountain Regional Dry Detention Basin without channelization
*Storage solutions for the Robinson's Branch
The study which was started in 2002 languished until after Hurricane Irene, when the Mayors Council and adept representation from US Senator Menendez, US Senator Lautenberg and Congressman Lance began advocating for full funding to get the US Army Corps to give Rahway River flood mitigation its priority. Congressman Lance met with the numerous Mayors in January and the US Army Corps has stated it will arrive at a decision on the alternative in 2013.
Dan Aschenbach, Former Cranford Mayor coordinating the Mayors Council said "In the face of the destruction down the shore and the urgency of the US Army Corps turning its attention there, the movement now on the Rahway River flooding mitigation evaluation to this point is positive and reflects well on the US Army Corps efforts here. The Corps professionalism has been critical. But it still has to be stated flood mitigation is not in place which many residents worry about."
The Mayors Council includes: Millburn Mayor Sandra Haimoff; Cranford Mayor Tom Hannen; Mayor Victor DeLuca; Springfield Mayor David Amblen; Rahway Mayor Proctor; Union Mayor Clifton People; Winfield Mayor Margaret McManus; Kenilworth Mayor Kathi Fiamingo and Garwood Mayor Patricia Quattrocchi.
The Mayors Council has been advocating that the State of New Jersey fund the environmental evaluation so that the selected alternative will be based on the best information available including evaluation of the water wells owned by the City of Orange; the impact of the South Mountain Regional detention basin on Essex County facilities including the road system; and any impacts to Union County on Lenape Park.
Mayor Tom Hannen and Mayor Sandra Haimoff and have met with the Governor and his staff to urge the evaluation funding in the state's FY 2014 budget. Twelve of the region's state legislators and the Union County Freeholder Board have urged the state funding the request. Essex County Freeholder Luciano on behalf of Maplewood and Millburn has sponsored an Essex County Freeholder Board resolution supporting the request to the state.
Mayor Haimoff said "We have pointed out that the South Mountain Regional Detention Basin has significant hydrology benefits lowering river water elevations during peak storms significantly and the state should support our efforts to accelerate the project. We are concerned about the next major storm."