Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin and Colonel Paul E. Owen, Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ New York District, announced the release of the first phase of a study evaluating long-term flood risk management alternatives to help Passaic River Basin communities deal with chronic flooding.
The Army Corps’ Phase 1 Passaic River Basin Flood Risk Management General Re-evaluation was presented yesterday during a meeting of mayors and other local officials in Pequannock. The re-evaluation study, jointly funded by the DEP and Army Corps, analyzed potential flood-risk management alternatives for the Passaic River Basin that dated back to the 1980s, when the Army Corps and the DEP last formally examined flood-risk management in the basin.
The study was launched in 2012 by the Army Corps at the DEP’s request as part of Governor Christie’s multifaceted plan for mitigating flooding in the Passaic River’s basin, which covers major portions of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Union counties.
The study looked at various combinations of flood management strategies. A field of six was narrowed down to three alternatives that will now be the subject of a detailed Phase 2 study that will result in a final comprehensive flood risk management project. The Army Corps will hold three public information sessions over the next month to outline the Phase 1 study and gather input as the study process moves into its second phase.
“Our communities in the densely populated Passaic River Basin have had to deal with flooding issues for too long,” Commissioner Martin said. “While there is no silver bullet that can stop flooding in the basin, efforts such as this will help to mitigate flood damage and help ease the hardship suffered by residents living in this area.”
“The Army Corps is pleased to be moving forward with our partners in the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on this important study of flood risk management alternatives for communities in the Passaic River Basin,” said Colonel Owen. “We’re committed to working with the state of New Jersey and the stakeholders within the Passaic River Basin to analyze, develop and implement the best flood risk management solutions possible.”
The Phase 1 study released yesterday updated economic costs and benefits, engineering requirements and data for five different combinations of comprehensive flood risk management alternatives. The study also evaluated a federally required no action option.
The field was narrowed to the following three options:
– Alternative 14A: Levees and floodwalls combined with nonstructural measures, such as flood-proofing, raising homes and buyouts. This alternative does not include channel improvements but includes the possibility of bridge and dam modifications to help mitigate structural impediments to flow;
– Dual Inlet-Newark Bay Outlet Tunnel: The plan authorized by Congress in 1990 to divert flood water from the basin via a tunnel to Newark Bay. The project would require construction of a main tunnel from the Upper Pompton River and a spur tunnel near Two Bridges on the Passaic River to convey floodwaters to Newark Bay;
– Nonstructural: Addressing the flood risk management issues in the basin exclusively through nonstructural measures such as flood-proofing, elevation of homes, and private property buyouts instead of large-scale construction projects such as levees, floodwalls and diversion tunnels.
These three alternatives give the Army Corps and DEP a wide range of options for the second phase study. In the second phase, the Army Corps will perform much more detailed engineering, hydrology, hydraulics and cost-benefit analyses, and will also more closely examine technological advancements that have taken place since basin risk management strategies were last comprehensively examined.
The Army Corps is developing a cost estimate for the second phase study, which will be cost-shared by the Army Corps and DEP.
The Army Corps of Engineers, supported by DEP staff, will be hosting three public information sessions in the coming weeks to discuss the Phase I report and path forward with interested members of the public.
Public meetings will be held March 25 at the Winston S. Churchill School, 233 Fairfield Road, Fairfield; March 27 at Pompton Lakes High School, 44 Lakeside Avenue, Pompton Lakes; and April 3 at the Lyndhurst Fire Department, 299 Delafield Avenue, Lyndurst. Each meeting will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and will feature informal information exchange and poster board sessions with experts and a half-hour formal informational presentation.
The Passaic River watershed drains about 935 square miles, with 84 percent located in New Jersey and the remainder in New York State. The Passaic River has seven major tributaries: the Whippany, Rockaway, Pompton, Pequannock, Wanaque, Ramapo, and Saddle rivers.
The Army Corps study process is one of the initiatives called for by the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission, formed by Governor Christie to develop and recommend solutions to the chronic flooding problems that occur in the basin.
Press Release, March 7, 2014