First Of Several River Gauges Installed On Peckman River

Pictured is the first of several river gauges to be installed on the Peckman River. The gauges are designed to give residents an advanced warning of approximately two days prior to a flooding event. Credits: James Damiano

LITTLE FALLS, NJ - The first of four river gauges was installed on May 8 at the Francisco Bridge in the Peckman River, according to flood board members of the Passaic Valley Regional Flood Control Board, representing Woodland Park, Little Falls and Cedar Grove. The Township of Little Falls recently received state and county permits for the installation of long awaited devices.

The flood board reported at its recent meeting held in the Little Falls municipal building on April 13, that they expected to have a confirmed date for installation by early May. The request for the gauges originated from the flood board to Passaic County Freeholders, through the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), in order to fund or partially fund the purchase, installation and maintenance of three gauges.

The plan is to install one gauge at the Francisco Avenue bridge, one gauge at Main Street bridge and another at the Route 46 bridge. A resolution was also passed at a prior council meeting in Little Falls for the township to enter into a shared services agreement with the county and Woodland Park in order to monitor flooding at the Peckman River. A river gauge to be located at the Ozone Avenue bridge, in Cedar Grove, is still in the works. That gauge would fall under Essex County's jurisdiction.

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Jerry Oehm, flood board chairman, gave an update for the gauges at the flood board's recent meeting, and reported that he met with a representative from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), along with Yogi Sooku, president and CEO of Gotham Analytics, the company that produces the river gauges. The aim was to allow the USGS to view what Gotham Analytics was providing to the flood board regarding the river gauges. Charles Cuccia, Little Falls business administrator, was also present during that meeting in order to provide information regarding permits.

Nick Agnoli, prior flood board chairman, who is now a technical advisor to the board, made cost related comparisons last year, estimating that a gauge serviced by Gotham Analytics would be $36,000 for five years, with an additional fee of $3,600 for installation, totaling $39,600. The cost would have resulted in the amount of $20,000 for each gauge under the USGS, including $60,000 per year for a five-year service, totaling $300,000.

Oehm said that once installation occurs in Little Falls, flood board members would review how information will be dispensed during a flooding event.

"I think once we get those gauges, there'd be a lot of discussion on what we can do and it's amazing," he added.

Dorothy O'Haire, flood board secretary, said the high tech information that the gauges offer for advanced warning, is well worth the effort of getting them.

"We've been working on this for six years now, trying to get the money and to put them in," she noted.

However, flood board members had commented last year that the method of dispensing information by the gauges still needed to be addressed. O'Haire added that general information is received from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Anything about evacuating comes from the Office of Emergency Management and that's their job," O'Haire emphasized. "The whole purpose of the gauges is to release information about what's going to happen two days in advance."

Inundation mapping will show accurately where the flood is expected to be and this information will go out to OEM, and they would then decide to warn residents, according to O'Haire.

Local officials have praised the river gauge system as a potentially powerful tool in saving lives and property. Little Falls Mayor James Damiano commented after Monday's installation after visiting its location.

"Earlier today, phase one of the installation of the gauges from Gotham Analytics was installed at the Francisco Bridge in the Peckman River," he said on Monday. "While it currently only looks like a thin PVC pipe, it will soon be one of four gauges that get installed and will assist in predicting and monitoring the flow of the Peckman River. As the installation is complete. I will provide an update."

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