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Officials Finalize Flood Prevention Measures

Communities in Union and Essex counties to take steps toward developing a dry dam in the South Mountain Reservation.

The Following press release was provided by the Mayor's Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control.

, established after Irene to find solutions to flooding in Rahway River Watershed, meets next on Sept. 13 at 6:45 p.m. at the Rahway Municipal Library.

The Mayor's Council consists of the Mayors and engineers of communities along the Rahway River that have been meeting regularly since the end of 2011.  The communities of Millburn, West Orange, South Orange, Maplewood, Springfield, Union, Cranford, Kenilworth, Garwood, Westfield, Winfield Park and Rahway have been represented on the council.

"All the towns in the Rahway River Watershed have to improve the way we handle stormwater since what happens in one town affects others. Our efforts have been to develop regional solutions," said Rahay Mayor Rick Proctor.

The agenda includes finalization of the interlocal agreement for the legal analysis and work plan for the development of a dry dam in the South Mountain Reservation near Campbell Mills Pond. The dry dam would store storm water during peak storm conditions. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working with the Mayors Council has confirmed in its preliminary analysis that the storage could lower water elevations up to three feet lower in Millburn, Springfield and Union and one-and-a-half feet lower in Cranford and also benefit Rahway.

Seven communities have agreed to sign the inter-local agreement. The mayors have urged the state legislature to fund the environmental assessment on the project and are waiting for the state's response for this urgent project. In addition, the mayors are urging Sens. Frank Lautenberg Robert Menendez to include in the Senate appropriation legislation for the FY 2013 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act funding that was left out of the House version of the appropriations bill for the US Army Corps of Engineers to complete its alternatives review of mitigation projects to reduce flooding on Rahway River including the dry dam in South Mountain; Lenape Park; Morris Avenue bridge improvement and flood mitigation at Robinson's Branch. 

In addition, updates on the other key projects the U.S. Army Corps is evaluating are on the agenda including improvements to capacity of Lenape Park. The Army Corps has provided preliminary estimates of the changes it is evaluating and projected storage levels. A Lenape Park task including representatives of various communities and the county engineer will be meeting on the next steps at an early September meeting.

An important agenda item will be discussion by mayors on several objectives to improve best practices in storm water management. The objectives will be finalized over the following week at a major conference co-sponsored by the Mayors Council and the Rahway River Association, a leading environmental organization that is focused on improving the ecology and environment of the Rahway River Watershed. The conference is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Millburn Library. Guest speakers include Dr. Amy Rowe and Michele Bakacs of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension (Union, Essex, Passaic and Middlesex counties) on pervious concrete and rain barrels; Sandy Batty, Executive Director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions and Rutgers University's Chris Obropta.  

"We need everyone involved to manage storm water better," said David Schwartzberg and Lynda Feder, Rahway River Association Trustees. "Every household and business can do simple things that will help reduce the chances of flooding severity. We need to educate our families on what can be done." 

Under discussion are several key objectives to be implemented by the watershed communities in the coming year. Each objective has some capability of lowering the quantity of storm water while making improvements to the quality of the storm water. The objectives include: requiring planning and zoning boards members to have mandatory and specific training in storm water management concepts; each Mayor and governing board taking a pledge to lower impervious surfaces by 10 percent by 2015 at school and municipal facilities; creation of a regional policy board to effectuate changes in land use rules, and development of green technology demonstrations projects in sensitive properties near floodways.

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