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Financial Impact Of Hurricane Irene Tops $50 Million, Officials Say

The cost of damages caused by flooding from the late summer hurricane exceeded $50 million, according to representatives from the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control.

Data collected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the months following Hurricane Irene has shown that the cost of the damage to homes, schools, and municipal property has exceeded $50 million.

The economic loss, including the decrease in some property values has led members of a regional flood control panel to seek financial assistance from federal, state and county governments to help prevent future losses due to storm damage.

When the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control meets on April 3 at the Union Municipal Building, members will discuss some of the funding that has already been awarded to towns along the Rahway River to help with flood mitigtion efforts.

Last week Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-07), Cranford Mayor David Robinson and several state and county officials held a press conference at town hall to announce a $3.1 million federal grant for flood mitigation in Cranford.The funds will be used to help offset the cost of elevating 18 township homes that have experienced extreme flooding and related damages.

“These important federal funds will go a long way in helping mitigate further flood damage in a number of neighborhoods in Cranford Township,” Lance said. “It is important the we continue to work together on all levels of government to protect New Jersey homeowners in flood-prone areas."

The funds are part of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program that provides funding for voluntary buyouts or elevations of homes hardest hit by last year's severe flooding. New Jersey received a total of $21 million in grant dollars for flood mitigation project. These federal dollars are leveraged with a $7 million match from state and local governments. According to officials, homeowners benefitting from the $3.1 million FEMA grant will receive 75% of the funds they need to elevate their homes. They will be responsible for the additional 25 percent.

Earlier last week, Lance met with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials to discuss flood control measures for Cranford. Following the meeting, the lawmaker announced that the federal agency has agreed to provide $225,000 in 2012 to continue funding a long-term flood control feasibility study. Following last week's press conference in Cranford, lance said he was aware of the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control and it's goal to address flooding on a regional basis. he vowed to continue working with the federal government to help secure funding for projects that address flood control issues along the Rahway River.

The Mayors Council is made up of the Mayors of the communities that are in the Rahway River Watershed including Millburn, Union, Springfield, Cranford, Winfield Park, Westfield, Rahway, Garwood and Kenilworth. The organization was founded in October of 2011 after the damages from Irene to develop flood control strategies on a regional basis to mitigate flooding and protect area residents.

The council's April 3 agenda also includes an update on the US Army Corps of Engineers hydrology evaluation of several priority projects to increase the storage of floodwaters including assessment of the Orange Reservoir and the South Mountain reservation. In addition, the mayors will a discuss possible flood mitigation opportunities in the Lenape Park Retention Basin, including changing the spillway. There will also be an evaluation of both Echo Lake Park and Nomehegan Parks and assessment of the bridges along the stretch of the river.

According to former Cranford Mayor Daniel Aschenbach, who helped form the committee and remains involved in the panel, the mayors will also consider recommendations of the engineers of the watershed communities.

"The engineers were hosted last week by Union County Engineer Tom Mineo and covered numerous action items including better river maintenance practices and regulatory relief regarding normal stream maintenance," Aschenbach said. "In addition a resolution will be presented to commit each community to lowering the amount of impervious surfaces by 10 percent by 2014 and a list of flood prone properties will be provided to Union County for open space purchase."

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