The Mayors along the Rahway River in Essex and Union Counties will present to Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo on Thursday a report on the potential for storm water storage in the South Mountain Reservations during major weather events.
Mayor Sandra Haimoff and the Mayors’ Council on Rahway River Flood Control invited Joseph DiVincenzo to the presentation of the plan being developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has preliminarily estimated through its hydrology assessment that up to two feet of storm water could be stored behind natural dams in the .
The Mayors will hear the plan for the first time earlier in the day Thursday when the Corps presents the plan to the council, Haimoff said, and Leo Coakley, the engineer who has been working with Millburn and Cranford will present the plan to DiVincenzo in the afternoon.
The Corps of Engineers studied the area after the Mayor’s Council approached them and asked them to add study of South Mountain to the study they were already doing for Cranford, an town downstream from Millburn that was particularly hard hit, she said.
“They said they would when they saw how it could have a positive impact on Cranford, and, of course it would help us and other towns between here and Cranford,” Haimoff said.
Lowering water levels at the Orange Reservoir is another alternative under evaluation as well.
The Rahway River Watershed communities, including Millburn, Springfield, Union and Cranford, suffered in excess of $75 million of damages to homes, school and municipal facilities from Irene . Some homeowners have yet to return to their homes in Cranford and one homeowner in Millburn just recently returned to his home in the South Mountain area.
Mayors from the formed a Mayors’ Council to find flood mitigation solutions in the Rahway River Watershed.
“it is the first time, I think, that we’ve worked with other towns in other counties to this extent,” Haimoff said. “But we have to cross lines to solve this problem.”
Haimoff added that the mayors “just basically keep moving along, prodding, like pushing an elephant uphill.”
While in the early stages of analysis, the storage plan must meet strict environmental standards. The Essex County Executive has expressed an openness to evaluating various options to better protect Essex County communities of Millburn, and also South Orange and Maplewood, as well as the regional communities.
Storage of storm water on the reservation would slow the west branch of the river where the east and west branches meet so the east branch communities of South Orange and Maplewood would also benefit.
The Mayors are working on a lot of angles when it comes to trying to mitigate flooding. Another is to get the Department of Environmental Protection to allow dredging near the I-78 bridge where so much debris has collected.
Last week the mayors took a tour of the river with the DEP and the Department of Transportation to see the bridges and the problems close up.
The mayors are pushing for some of the simpler solutions like dredging and water storage to be taken care of before season officially gets underway.
“I get nervous every time it rains,” Haimoff said.