Mayors Council reports major step forward in Rahway River Flood Mitigation Plan

UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Mayors Council Rahway River Watershed Flood Control released in a June 5 statement that the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced HR 5303, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which includes an amendment to authorize the construction planning and engineering of the Rahway River Flood Mitigation Plan. The priority given to the project was represented by the House Committee approval of the amendment that affects only eight such projects nationwide, according to the release.

After an extensive evaluation of 10 different flood control alternatives, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are expected to recommend the best alternative from a benefit-cost perspective in the next month to proceed to a final plan.

Earlier in 2016, members of the Mayors Council went to Washington, D.C., to make the case before U.S. Congress for construction funding of the plan. This was their third visit, which, according to Mayors Council spokesman and former Cranford Mayor Dan Aschenbach, “reflects the commitment of these officials to urge action.”

“We wanted to thank Congressman Leonard Lance for his instrumental effort to represent us by working to get support for the important amendment,” current Cranford Mayor Andis Kalnins said in the press release. “The congressman has been a strong advocate for local residents on this matter.”

“The bipartisan regional effort to bring the federal and state governments to bear on a serious public safety issue has been critical,” Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said in the release. He also thanked Congressman Albio Sires for his role in supporting the measure for residents.

The plan also recently received $774,000 in funds included in FY 2017 for the continuing investigation work; this money represents a federal and state commitment. That legislation remains to be adopted by the full U.S. Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. The Mayors Council expressed appreciation to senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez and representatives Leonard Lance and Donald Payne Jr. for their continued efforts on this.

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

More than $100 million of damages was faced by residents along the Rahway River during Tropical Storm Irene and no improvement in the situation has yet been done. The federal and state Rahway River Flood Mitigation Plan has significant flood mitigation benefits including material water elevation reductions from Millburn to Rahway. The plan includes modification to the Orange Reservoir to store more water during peak storm conditions and there is proposed channelization improvements from Lenape Park through Cranford. Investigations are ongoing for improved storage in the Robinson Branch part of the Rahway River in Rahway.