Towns including Millburn and Cranford, located “downstream” of the flood-prone Rahway River — are seeking help from their upstream neighbors in Maplewood and South Orange to ensure flood control measures are enacted this year.
Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers scrapped a controversial plan to build a dam in the South Mountain Reservation after the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommended against it. The decision came after public pressure from a wide-ranging coalition of elected officials, community leaders, environmentalists and residents opposed to the dam.
In a letter to the Army Corps, the DEP advised against the plan for the 75-foot high, 810-foot wide dam across the Rahway River in the southern section of the reservation, and instead gave the nod to two other options for flood mitigation.
Now, downstream towns including Millburn and Cranford — those most hard hit by flooding of the Rahway in the past — have launched a citizen petition drive to urge the Army Corps to fully fund a study and plan in 2014 to implement flood control improvements in the Rahway River Watershed, according to Dan Aschenbach, former Cranford Mayor and coordinator of the Mayors Council.
The online petition can be accessed at Petition Supporting the Army Corp of Engineers Study on the Rahway River Basin Flooding Reduction. Nearly 1,000 people have signed so far.
Here is the petition:
Earlier this past year citizens in Maplewood and South Orange objected to the development of a South Mountain detention basin at Campbell’s Mill Pond. The benefit cost ratio evaluation by the US Army Corps of Engineers determined that another alternative had a better economic benefit and the Mayors Council Rahway River Watershed Flood Control urged the US Army Corps focus its attention on what is referred to as Alternative 4.
This alternative would modify the outlet structure at the South Mountain Orange reservoir to permit lowering the capacity of the reservoir prior to a peak storm so it had more capacity. That coupled with downstream channel improvements would lower water elevations by 2.6 feet in Millburn and 3.5 feet in Cranford. The improved capacity of the reservoir would also protect Essex County recreational facilities nearby.
The petition seeks to urge the US Congress and US Army Corps to finish the study and proceed to implementation.
[Aschenbach] said that the Alternative 4 is the most cost effective and less controversial plan. The best chance to put the proposed dam behind all is for citizens who were passionate about protecting the reservation to be passionate about protecting homes and businesses downstream. Without citizens who spoke out so forcefully against the dam this effort loses the full certainty however needed to get to the next step.
In August petition organizers will be visiting door to door in the areas of the towns that got inundated during Irene. Also, representatives will be at the Millburn and Maplewood post offices to obtain signatures.
September 10 Mayors and representatives of the 11 communities will present the petition to the US Congress and US Army Corps of Engineers in Washington DC.
Fred Profeta of Save our Reservation said his organization supports the petition and funding effort, and has posted it on their Facebook page.
“I fully support this petition and will help gather signatures before the Washington trip on September 10th,” said Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca in an email. “I was a strong advocate against the dam and feel a responsibility to support our downstream neighbors.”