Mayors Council heads to D.C. to fund flood mitigation plan

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Next week, representatives from the Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control will head to Washington, D.C., to convince the U.S. Congress to fund the Rahway River flood mitigation plan.

As of September 2015, the flood mitigation study was fully funded, leaving the next step to the U.S. Congress to approve and fund the plan to modify the Orange Reservoir outlet, to create new embankments in the Lenape Park detention basin, and to do channel work in Cranford to add capacity to the river.

The Mayors Council, which includes Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca, was formed after Tropical Storm Irene to find solutions to flooding from Millburn to Rahway. According to former Cranford Mayor Dan Aschenbach, representatives of the council will head to D.C. on Feb. 10 to meet with Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who chairs the Appropriation Committee; Congressman Donald Payne, who represents parts of Essex County; and Congressman Leonard Lance, who represents parts of Union County; as well as senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and senior executives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The importance of this trip is that we have a strong opportunity to get construction funding into federal bill in 2016,” Aschenbach told the News-Record in a recent email. “A key milestone for the USACE study is due March 31 and, as mayors, we urge this deadline be met to help residents impacted by flooding … can see a solution at hand.”

Aschenbach stressed that Tropical Storm Irene had caused approximately $100 million worth of flooding damage.
While Maplewood did not suffer serious flooding, Maplewood residents became quite active in the hype surrounded the USACE flood mitigation study a few years, because one possible course of action suggested was to turn the South Mountain Reservation into a detention basin, a plan that upset many locals.

“One of the proposals to solve flooding from the west branch of the Rahway River was to construct a huge dam in South Mountain Reservation,” DeLuca told the News-Record in a recent email. “This was a terrible idea. The Maplewood Township Committee and our citizens fought back to make sure the dam would not happen.

“Even though the west branch of the river does not flow through Maplewood, we recognized their needs to be a solution to downstream flooding,” DeLuca continued. “We therefore joined with impacted neighboring municipalities to advocate for a flood-control alternative that preserves the reservation.”

As such, though he is not heading to D.C. himself, DeLuca is sending a letter to the congressmen in support of funding the flood mitigation plan.

“Last year, I was happy to join other elected officials to meet with Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo to gain his support for the Orange Reservoir solution,” DeLuca said. “Now we are working with our federal legislators to get the required design and construction funds approved by Congress.”

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