To the Editor:
Cranford citizens now need to step up and become more active in their community's most significant concern. A year ago, Hurricane Irene brought significant damage to the communities in our area. More than 2,000 homes were impacted. The first floors of several hundred homes ruined. Over $75 million of property damage in the Rahway River Watershed. Some families are now just moving back into their homes in Cranford.
Extreme weather patterns, overdevelopment, poor planning as it relates to management of stormwater has created a worsening situation. In Cranford, the senseless 360 unit Birchwood housing development litigation continues to occupy the township's focus with the court's failure to consider the ravages of the past storms. Real estate values already impacted by the lingering economic slowdown are pressured by Irene's memory. And this is not only affecting the north side of the community. This has to end. But residents can't just hope it does. When it rains now all watch and worry but more voices need to be heard acting to turn this around.
Last October at Union County College, an effort was started with the mayors of numerous communities in the region to try to find flood control solutions. The Mayors Council on Rahway River Flood Control has been working with the US Army Corps of Engineers and state DEP to evaluate what can and should be done. Several positive solutions have come to the front. A significant renewed focus on stronger storm water management is being put forward. The development of a detention dam in the South Mountain Reservation is also one promising solution.
The hydrology studies have determined close to three feet of water during peak storm conditions could be stored behind the dam reducing water elevations in Millburn, Union and Springfield with still a significant one and one-half foot lower elevation in Cranford and also bringing lower elevations to Rahway. This benefit also would provide Cranford potential room to implement other improvements. Legal discussions are in place with seven communities agreeing to funding an interlocal agreement. Discussions with Essex County and the City of Orange are taking place. The next major project the US Army Corps of Engineers is also in the midst of evaluating are improvements to Lenape Park and river capacity downstream. Numerous alternatives are being evaluated including well respected local engineer Greg Sgroi's proposal on the spillway. Results of the US Army Corps evaluation should be available soon for next step actions.
The most important next step now is securing from the state and federal legislators funding to do the environmental assessments and then the construction. This letter urges residents to contact their legislators to urge support to move the flood mitigation projects forward.
Some suggest not much can be done but such an attitude harms our collective need to be positive and constructive. That goes for the proposed Birchwood development. Residents need to restate to the New Jersey DEP and the court the facts about Cranford and the flood control challenges. Don't let the year anniversary go by without taking action on your part.