U.S. Congress authorizes Rahway River Flood Mitigation Project as national priority

Photo Courtesy of Dan Aschenbach
From left are Chief of Staff Timothy Mulhall for Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, former Cranford Mayor Dan Aschenbach, Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, Cranford Mayor Andis Kalnins, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, Springfield Mayor Jerry Fernandez, Springfield Mayor-elect Diane Stampoulos and Cranford Commissioner Tom Hannen.

RAHWAY, NJ — The U.S. Congress approved the Federal Water Resources Act of 2016 on Saturday, Dec. 10, and sent it to President Barack Obama for signing, according to a release from the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control The act includes the authorization of the Rahway River Flood Mitigation Project as a priority project. Once the secretary of the army approves the report, the legislation authorizes engineering and pre-construction funds on the project. This represents a major milestone to bring flood relief to the communities along the Rahway River. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and congressmen Leonard Lance and Donald Payne Jr. were instrumental in this legislative action.

The Mayors Council also met with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Martin on Dec. 9 to urge the state to move ahead in funding the Rahway River Flood Mitigation plan, including getting to construction in 2017. The Mayors Council urged the state to reduce the schedule for the required engineering chief’s report. Bolstered by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers draft environmental impact statement that said there are no impacts that can’t be mitigated with reasonable actions, the mayors encouraged Martin to fund the Orange Reservoir Dam integrity study in the first quarter of 2017 to ensure the dam is safe and meets federal standards.

“Over $100 million of damages were faced by residents along the Rahway River during Irene,” Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen said in the release. “The federal and state Rahway River Flood Mitigation plan has significant flood mitigation benefits including material water elevation reductions from Millburn to Rahway. Known as Alternative 4a, the plan is a revision of one of the 10 alternatives that the U.S. Army Corps and the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection evaluated.”

Alternative 4a includes modification to the Orange Reservoir , adding two 36-inch outfall pipes permitting the reservoir to be drained two days before a major storm to reduce significantly the water elevation downstream during the major storm event. There will be downstream channel improvements through Cranford with channel deepening. Also there is expected to be lifting or acquisition of numerous properties in Rahway.

The Mayors Council has expressed appreciation for making the plan a priority.

“We appreciate the efforts of our federal legislators working on our behalf,” Cranford Mayor Andis Kalnins said in the release. “Now we need the state to take this major step forward and expedite the plan.”

The Mayors Council includes Kalnins, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, Union Mayor Manuel Figueiredo, Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, former Millburn Mayor Robert Tillotson, Millburn Mayor Ted Bourke, Rahway Mayor Sam Steinman, Springfield Mayor Jerry Fernandez and Kenilworth Mayor Anthony DeLuca.