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Flood Control Tops Mayors' List Of Priorities

The next meeting of the Mayors' Council on Rahway River Flood Control will focus on gaining legislative support for proposed projects.

Volunteers from the Cranford River Maintenance Committee found a tee marker from the Maplewood Country Club in the river in Cranford the same week the Mayors' Council on Rahway River Watershed Flood Control requested that the East Branch of the Rahway River be included in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' study of storage areas.

The East Branch flows through Orange, West Orange, South Orange and Maplewood before its connects with the West Branch at Millburn, Union and Springfield. Any reduction due to storage would help downstream communities including Cranford and Rahway. The Maplewood Country Club is one of the potential sites for additional storage as the Rahway River goes through the Club's golf course, said former Cranford Mayor Dan Aschenbach, who remains on the committee. 

The Mayors'  Council Rahway River Watershed Flood Control met this past week in Springfield at a meeting hosted by Springfield Mayor Ziad Shehady. The mayors agenda included: the east branch study; communications with the Governor's Office and state DEP on speeding up post Irene storm debris cleanup and for regulatory relief for improved river maintenance on an ongoing basis; and development of a legislative strategy to request funding for flood mitigation projects.

Consensus was reached, led by Union Mayor Joseph Florio to ensure that West Branch of Rahway River flood control projects maintained the priority including development of storage locations in the South Mountain Reservation, which the US Army Corps has preliminarily cited as providing significant benefit to the affected communities of Millburn, Springfield, Union, Kenilworth, Cranford, Winfield Park and Rahway. Preliminary estimates from the US Army Corps study indicates up to two feet of storm water can be held back from peak river conditions. This measurement was estimated at locations in Cranford.

Millburn Mayor Haimoff has begun to schedule discussions with Essex County on the storage projects, including increasing retention in the South Mountain Reservation.

The Mayors expect that The US Army Corps of Engineers will report on its findings on additional storage potential in Lenape Park, Nomehegan Park and Echo Lake Park. Cranford in particular is anxious for the results of this part of the evaluation. The federal-state study has been funded with support from Senate Frank Lautenberg, Congressman Leonard Lance and Senate Robert Menendez.  

Last week Cranford Mayor Dave Robinson sent the  formal request to the US Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection(DEP) to request the East Branch study.

In the request, Mayor David Robinson said: "The Township engineering professionals now recommend the East and West Branches should be studied together so that the combined effects of any storage and attenuation of peaks are evaluated in combination. We request the East Branch to be added and evaluated for potential storage in Maplewood, South Orange and west Orange. Irene was too big of an impact not to consider all possibilities."

The next Mayors'  Council meetings will be in May and will focus on gaining legislative support from the region's 12 state legislators and Union and Essex County freeholders to fund the mitigation projects and to provide regulatory relief so the Rahway River can be maintained to mitigate flood events.

"The damage brought by Irene exceeded $75 million. Taxpayers are beginning to express concern about impact of flooding on property values," said Aschenbach. "The urgency of acting now is to create solutions that can be implemented before any future storms cause problems again."

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