The following summary of the last meeting of the Mayor's Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control was provided by members of the organization.
At its March meeting in Millburn, the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control made it a top priority to better define the extent of the damages left by Hurricane Irene. The current estimate is more than $100 million of damages to schools, business districts and homes.
The mayors of the 11 communities participating in the Mayors Council have been working along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate flood control alternatives that could protect residents and businesses from future storms.
A major potential is the development of the South Mountain Regional Detention Facility that could according to U.S. Army Corps hydrology evaluations lower water elevations during peak storm conditions by almost three feet in Millburn, Union, and Springfield and also benefit Cranford, Maplewood, Kenilworth and Rahway. The other projects include Lenape Park and Robinson's Branch and channel modifications in Cranford.
As part of the evaluation that the US Army Corps of Engineers will do is to develop a benefits-cost ratio that if a project benefits (damages avoided) exceed costs by more than one times puts the project in the line to be federally funded which would mean 65 percent of the cost would be paid by the federal government, while 75 pecent of the remaining cost would be state funded.
The mayors decided to ensure an accurate assessment of the damages was being considered and made it a priority to produce a report that will be provided to federal officials.
According to former Cranford Mayor Dan Aschenbach, one of the founding members of the Mayor's Council, some of the damages included thus far are:
- The cost to residents and businesses of the six day power outage due to a flooded power substation causing monetary loss impacts in Cranford, Westfield, Garwood and Fanwood.
- The Garden State Parkway was flooded and closed with the NJTA losing toll revenues.
- The downtown business districts were closed in Cranford, Millburn and Rahway for several days resulting in small business losses.
- More than 2,500 houses were impacted in the communities with many with first floors damage.
- Cranford's Brookside Place School had more than $4 million of damage and Cranford's municipal building first floor was out of service for more than a year.
"The Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed expects the US Army Corps will be evaluating the benefit-cost information over the next several months and we expect to ensure they have as accurate information as possible," Millburn Mayor Haimoff said.
In other business at the Mayors Council meeting, the mayors of the 11 communities are urging in the fiscal year 2014 state budget funding to investigate the potential impacts of the development of the regional dry detention basin in South Mountain so the county of Essex and the city of Orange can understand the potential impacts of the project including evaluation of any impacts of the basin on water wells and on park inundation of holding back storm water for a few days to let the peak storm pass.
In addition, the acceleration of the US Army Corps of Engineers evaluation of the alternatives in the watershed so that a decision can be made in 2013 on South Mountain, Lenape Park and Robinson's Branch projects. Mayors have been contacting the Governor and legislators to urge support. The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously approved last week a board resolution in support of the flood control efforts and request to Gov. Chris Christie.