Another Major Passaic River Flood

Friday, March 11, 2011

Even though the rain has stopped in New Jersey, flooding will be a significant issue for the next several days, especially along the Passaic River.

David Robinson is the state's Climatologist at Rutgers University.

"If you live on the main stem of the Passaic River, you still have several days before the flooding maxes out," warned Robinson. "The crest is expected sometime Sunday  and then it is going to be very slow to come down."

Robinson says back-to-back major rain events, along with twice the average snow fall in parts of the state, have left the ground saturated with water.

"The snowfall really depended on where you live," said Robinson. The northeast portion of the state has seen some 60 inches already, or about a 200 percent increase above the average annual accumulation. "Central was about 50 inches of snow," almost as much as spike in the northeast said Robinson. The northwest region got off pretty lightly by comparison, either close to prior years' averages or even slightly below.

Robinson says over the last several years, major flooding events have happened with much greater frequency along the state's Delaware, Raritan and Passaic Rivers.

Robinson says this weekend, flooding along the Passaic could be of near-historic proportions.

Looking at the Passaic the trend is clear. "When all is said adn done, the Passaic gauge at Little Falls may come in with five of the nine largest floods of the last century, all occurring since 1999," said Robinson.

Robinson conceded that an increase in upstream development in the Highlands, along with the increase in impervious cover like parking lots, could make matters worse. He said it can really increase the velocity of the flood waters.

But if you are trying to explain the sheer volume of rain "you have to look to Mother Nature," said Robinson. According to Robinson, that trend of great precipitation should prompt more study on a potential linkage between global warming and increased rain fall.
New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, whose distinct includes some of the hardest hit Passaic towns, said Pompton Lakes, Lincoln Park, Wayne, Little Falls and Paterson all face flood management problems He said the increasing frequency and severity of the floods is hitting his constituents hard.
"You got to cry when you see what they have lost when there is a flood like this," said Pascrell. "It has happened six or seven times in the last four or five years. We need to begin to say we need to change things."

Pascrell said a review of existing dams and water infrastructure that has been ignored for decades is key. After a few years of pushing, Pascrell said he finally got the Army Corps of Engineers to start a study of the flood gates on the Pompton River.

But he said part of the problem is a legacy of over-development that reduces the natural watershed area in and around the flood plain to help retain rain water. "That's why I fought the construction of 25 new homes in Little Falls," recalled Pascrell.

Earlier this week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told WNYC that such purchases could be part of a comprehensive long term flood control strategy.

"In the long haul, it’s going to be a combination of things," said Christie. "We have to look at flood control projects that need to be federally sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers in places like the Passaic River area. We also have to decide -- do we wanna bite the bullet and just buy some of these folks out  that are in the flood plains. Because in some of these areas, in the Passaic River area, there may be no way to really fix the problem."

Last year after catastrophic flooding along the Passaic, Governor Christie appointed a panel of experts to look at how best to deal with the chronic flooding problem. Last month they reported back with 15 recommendations.

The experts raised the possibility of a building moratorium on the flood plains in the eastern Highlands in and around the Pompton Valley and Watchung Mountains. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Bob Martin is expected to follow-up on the expert panels findings.


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Comments [6]

steve spiak

The rt.23 bridge over the Passaic river acts
like a dam.Its arched construction blocks the
flow as the water rises.The water has no trouble going under the railway bridge next
to it.Also every time they pave rt23 by the
bridge it makes the river rise a little more
before it can get around the the bridge and
back into the river bed so it can get under
the train bridge.Major pain? Yes,but it's time
to replace the rt.23 bridge.

Aug. 28 2011 11:07 PM
Karen from Fairfiled, NJ

This is the 3rd time since 2007 that I will have to gut out my house and rebuild. Flood ins does not pay for temp housing, nor does it any where near cover the cost of rebuilding. We no longer have any savings, credit, retirement money or much else left after paying out of pocket to rebuild each time. We can't sell and have no way to move. We were offered a buyout that won't even cover our mortgage.

I agree with Bob above.. something has changed over the last few years and it's NOT just parking lots and construction. I have lived there since 1982. 1984 was the hugest flood but my house was not hit again till 2005, then 2007, 2010 and again now. I've heard each time about there being dams opened up upstream that cause us to flood. I can live with flooded streets but not with my house getting hit every year. It's time we did something besides looking and thinking. We need to find out what's really happening and get it stopped before the next flood can happen.

Mar. 15 2011 01:31 PM

Michael Cerza

The issue of flooding of the Passaic River is the direct result of mans passion to make money and not think of the consequences of over-development of the enviornment. With so much cement and roads being created to service real estate projects the land cannot absorb the runoff, and the streams take the water to the rivers and thus we have flooding of historic proportions. Their is no cure of this condition other than the state paying residents to move to a new location within the towns they reside so the towns do not loose the tax base. The rivers will rise due to development and it is our own fault for not realizing the long term consequences of our economic self interests over the need for constraint near the waterways.

Mar. 12 2011 07:01 PM

I made the mistake of renting a 3rd floor apartment at the border of Wayne and Pompton Plains and while I lost nothing, my house mate lost 2 cars, a motorcycle and possessions he had in storage. Once was enough for me and yet I know of people who stay regardless of what they know is true- they live on a floodplain,next to a river and swamp.

I moved in not knowing the area and quickly left, but some residents stay either because they can't sell their homes or they just don't want to leave a place considered home.

Not wanting to leave a place you love and grew up in is understandable, but-If an area is flat, next to a river and a swamp, low lying, and considered a flood plain- how do permits get approved to build ANYTHING on that land? WHO has approved/ is approving these projects? Aren't the developers of those projects liable for damages in some way?

"..The experts raised the possibility of a building moratorium on the flood plains..."
Really? That is their 'expert' advice? Here's mine - If they are only 'raising the possibility' of a moratorium I would like to offer my amateur opinion that they quit and open up their positions to professionals in their field with far more common sense. It's possible future residents to the area would appreciate it.

Mar. 12 2011 01:02 PM
Bob Caddell

The flash boards at the paterson falls don't break away,3foot above flood stage?I think if the boards were lowered or removed during flood season parts of paterson ,totowa,woodland park and little falls may be helped.The storm drains are under water all year long because something hase changed at the falls.Just look at all the dead trees on the banks and islands,under water that were there for years.Inthe last 10 years i have talked to many people but get no answers.

Mar. 12 2011 11:59 AM
David Harris III from Lutz, FL

I think that some Pictures of the areas you described would put more impact into the overall theme of your Article: Chronic Flooding in the Passaic Valley. But I did Like your Article. :-)
[I grew-up in Upper Montclair 1950-1971; got married in '71 and got tired of the SNOW...moved to West Central Florida...Love the Warm Weather, but hate the Hurricanes! Mother Nature WINS no matter where You go! ;)]

Mar. 12 2011 01:29 AM

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