Mayors Council to head to D.C. to push flood mitigation plan along

ESSEX / UNION COUNTIES, NJ — The Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control will head to Trenton this week to meet with Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Martin on Dec. 9 to urge the state to move ahead on the state funding of the Rahway River Flood Mitigation plan, including getting to construction in 2017, which is fast approaching. In a meeting organized by state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. and expected to be attended by Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the mayors’ call for state action will be the main topic.

“We have been representing our communities to urge the state of New Jersey to begin construction of the Rahway River flood mitigation plan in 2017,” Union Mayor Manuel Figueiredo said in a press release. “As mayor, I have led Union’s effort to better protect our residents and our visit to Trenton to meet with the state DEP Commissioner Robert Martin is to remind him of the state’s pledge to follow through on this important effort.”

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 will be asking the state 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 modifications 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 1.5 miles of channel deepening and properties in Rahway will be acquired or lifted.

According to the Mayors Council, in the next week, the US Congress is expected to pass the Federal Water Resources Act and send it to the president; the act would authorize the U.S. Army Corps to accelerate the Rahway River Watershed Flood Mitigation Plan as a federal priority. U.S. senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and congressmen Leonard Lance and Donald Payne Jr. were instrumental in this legislative action, representing the communities in Union and Essex counties.

The Mayors Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control has expressed appreciation for making the plan a priority.

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

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