DEP, County of Sussex, and Stillwater Township Continue To Resolve Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee Damage

Cmmitteewoman Anita Straway believes relations between Stillwater Township and the DEP will improve. Credits: By Jane Primerano

STILLWATER TOWNSHIP, NJ – Damage and detours still in place since Hurricane Irene will be addressed by the State Department of Environmental Protection, the township and Sussex County.

Committeewoman Anita Straway met with Zoning Officer Arlene Fisher, and Cindy Randazzo from the DEP’s local government services office, and toured portions of the township damaged last year by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, Straway said.

The Old Tannery Bridge is still closed, leaving 12 families having to make long detours and playing havoc with the school buses, Straway said. The bridge was on the county’s watch list before the storms, she said at the Tuesday, Oct. 2, township committee meeting.

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Two other bridges were also damaged, the ones classified as S-25 and S-26. One is on Route 521 over Neldon’s Brook and the other is on Newton-Swartswood Road/Route 622.

Straway said lack of maintenance on the streams contributed to the problem. Since all of the streams around Stillwater are classified as Category-1 or "Trout Production (meaning waters that support trout reproduction), permits are needed for cleaning. Straway said dealing with the DEP on these matters has not always been easy, but after her meeting with Randazzo she believes things will get better.

“She said the DEP won’t come in like a SWAT team,” Straway said.

Besides the bridge and stream damage, 12 houses were under water after the storms, Straway said, and residents had problems repairing the damage as well.

Straway said she, Mayor George Scott, and Township Engineer Mike Vreeland, were out during the storms checking on the damage.

When she took Randazzo around the township, they started at Willow Lake Dam, a state-owned property. Willow Lake flows into Swartswood Lake, which flows into the Paulinskill.

They also reviewed damage at Veteran’s Park, she said.

Assuring residents the Old Tannery Bridge would be replaced, Straway said, “The county had 140 projects; they are down to 20. Old Tannery will be in the 2012 budget. The county is working with the DEP, it’s a matter of money, but they do have a plan.”

She also said the type of bridge that is being used will go in quickly, but will look like it belongs.

"The DEP is pleased Stillwater wasn’t one of the municipalities “looking for a handout,” Straway said. “When we had an emergency, we were fiscally responsible, but we can’t keep fixing things on our own dime.”

Committeewoman Lisa Chamming, the committee’s liaison to the environmental commission, asked Straway to have the commission copied on all correspondence Straway said the commission had nothing to do with the county’s bridges, but she had no objection to sharing material with them. Mayor George Scott said the commission should know what’s going on.

Chamming said Randazzo told her a list of priorities for the township would be created, and she wants to make sure the commission has input.

Maintenance will be done on Swartswood Lake this fall, Chamming said.

“The Swartswood Lake Association maintains the lake,” she explained.

They will lower the lake on October 19, and close the dam on March 1 for weed harvesting.

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