LITTLE FALLS/WOODLAND PARK, NJ - Local officials announced good news for the residents and business owners in the Passaic Valley region related to flood mitigation. 

Via a virtual Facebook Live call, Little Falls Mayor James Damiano, Woodland Park Mayor Keith Kazmark, Rep. Mikie Sherrill, and Lt. Col. Thomas Asbery of the Army Corps. of Engineers (ACOE), were among those on-hand to discuss the signing of a Chief's Report for the Peckman River Basin Flood Risk Management (also known as The Peckman River Project), along with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) officials. The move is considered a key milestone for the proposed project.

The study had been ongoing for many years by the ACOE on feasibility methods to mitigate flooding, sparked by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which killed a Little Falls resident. Since then, other flood events such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012, brought devastation to the area due to the Peckman and adjacent Passaic River basins that run through communities after heavy downpours. Officials felt the need to invest in flood mitigation outweighed the cost in lives, and to clean up and rebuild after storms.

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"The amount of work that we've done and everyone involved with this project has been tremendous," said Damiano. "I myself and the residents of Little Falls, are truly grateful and are really looking forward to this project coming to fruition."

Damiano also spoke of the financial impact the recent storm of August 2018 had on the area, just a year after he had been sworn into office.

"The municipality after that storm had a tremendous loss, somewhere to the tune of $38 million," he added. "Since I took office, people told me not to get my hopes up about this project because the river has been studied for 60 years with no action. But all of this hard work is paying off and I'm sincerely grateful for everybody who has put in so much work to get us to the point we are at right now." 

Kazmark said that Passaic Valley Regional Flood Board was created after Hurricane Floyd to advocate for flood mitigation by state and federal governments. The board includes Little Falls, Woodland Park and Cedar Grove. Totowa also joined in 2017.

"We have reviewed many versions of the study and I'm very excited about the fact that the local partnership with the ACOE came to an agreement about what type of infrastructure improvements need to be done to reduce flooding along the Peckman River and that report has been finalized and signed by the Chief," he said. "It will soon be sent to Congress for the purposes of funding."

He also assured the project would not worsen Passaic River flooding.

"This is not going to exacerbate your problem but it is going to correct most of the problems associated with the Peckman River flash flood event, which happens almost simultaneously to a storm event."

Asbery showed a graph of the proposed project, which consisted of highlighted areas of flood levees and walls, which would be built along the Peckman River, including in the vicinity of Passaic Valley High School between the track and baseball fields. A diversion culvert  is also the key part of the $146,000,000 proposed plan, geared to bring floodwater from the Peckman River to the much larger Passaic River, which would also include channel modifications.

Asbery also spoke of the importance in continuing communication to residents for any potential flood risk.

"It's essential that flood risk is still communicated to the residents, " he added. "We continue to work closely with the NJDEP and all the local professionals that are on this call, and that we continue to communicate these risks."

Specific recommendations of the project are:

  • A 1,500-foot-long, 40-foot diameter double box diversion culvert to be constructed between the Peckman and Passaic rivers to divert floodwater from the Peckman into the Passaic River.
  • Approximately 2,170 linear feet of levees and/or floodwalls to be constructed along the Peckman River.
  • Approximately 1,200 linear feet of levees and/or floodwalls to be constructed in the vicinity of Little Falls High School, between the track and  baseball fields.
  • Channel modifications would be made along approximately 1,848 linear feet of the Peckman River near the culvert inlet to accommodate riprap and eliminate erosion and possible undermining of the proposed levees and floodwalls.• As many as 16 structures would be elevated so their main floor elevations would be to a final height of one foot above the base flood elevation.
  • As many as 38 structures would be wet flood proofed, and four structures dry flood proofed

Sherrill vowed to fight to get funding for the project.

"I'm very happy to see this was signed, so we can look forward to the design phase and get one step closer to the relief that your towns deserve," she said.