PATERSON, NJ – The state on Saturday began lowering water levels of Pompton Lake in an effort to ease flooding of the Passaic River when Hurricane Sandy hits the area.

The state plans to lower the lake by about five feet by allowing discharges through the flood gates. That’s one of six flood mitigation actions being taken by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, according to a press release by Gov. Christie’s Office.

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State officials said the draw down will end in sufficient time to allow the released water ample time to safely pass downstream communities. The flood gates will go back to automatic operations after the draw down operation is completed, according to the state.

“Opening these flood gates is a necessary action to help mitigate the effects of this potentially unprecedented storm that is heading our way,” said Governor Christie. “A great deal of rainfall is expected which could cause major flooding, so we are taking every step we can to try to mitigate the potential flooding that could occur and provide relief to some of our communities who are often hardest hit by severe weather and flooding.” 

At a press conference on Saturday morning, Christie also said that the low water levels of the Passaic River this year also may help to alleviate storm flooding. Last year, before Irene hit the region, the Passaic River’s water levels had been high, which worsened the flooding, according to the governor.

This year, a combination of little snow and a dry early spring have left the Passaic lower than it has been in years, prompting some officials to call the Great Falls “The Great Trickle.’’

The reservoirs that will be drawn down are the Woodcliffe Lake-Lake Tappan-Oradell Reservoir system operated by United Water in Bergen County; the Charlottesburg Reservoir, operated by the City of Newark; the Wanaque Reservoir operated by the North Jersey Water Supply District; and the Boonton Reservoir operated by Jersey City.