Lowering Reservoir Level Could Reduce Flooding, Westwood Mayor Says
An attorney for the Hillsdale & Westwood Flood Solution Group said more changes need to be made to minimize flooding.
Westwood officials still want the Department of Environmental Protection to order an operations change at the Woodcliff Lake Reservoir as was recommended in a 2011 report, Mayor John Birkner said this week. Members of the Hillsdale & Westwood Flood Solution Group said the change alone would not be enough.
United Water, which owns the reservoir, keeps the water level slightly higher in the summer than in the winter. A 2011 report prepared for Westwood by Boswell Engineering recommended changing operations at the reservoir to maintain the lower level all year.
Water which leaves the reservoir flows into the Pascack Brook, which flooded some homes five times in 2011. Birkner said the change could "mitigate a certain degree of flooding."
Donald MacLachlan, an attorney representing the Hillsdale & Westwood Flood Solution Group, said that lowering the water level could help reduce flooding, but it is "only a fraction" of what needs to be done. Much of the problem lies with "poorly timed" releases of water from the reservoir into the Pascack Brook when it's already full of storm water, he said.
"United Water needs to completely address the capacity of the Pascack Brook during storms, and change the timing of when it releases impounded water from the reservoir into the brook when the brook is already at or near full capacity," MacLachlan said. "When United Water releases water from the reservoir into an already-full Pascack Brook, the extra reservoir water ends up in Hillsdale and then Westwood neighborhoods."
United Water officials have repeatedly said the reservoir is not the cause of flooding because the amount of water leaving the reservoir never exceeds the amount that flows in. Rich Henning, a company representative, previously said that lowering the reservoir would mean they would have less water in reserve during a drought.
The governor and DEP can order reservoirs to be lowered, but typically only do for unusually severe storms. Before Sandy hit last year, state officials did order United Water to lower their reservoirs slightly, but DEP Commissioner Bob Martin noted that reservoirs are not typically used to prevent flooding. United Water also held a controlled release before Hurricane Irene hit in 2011.
Westwood officials contacted the DEP after they received the report, but never heard back, according to Birkner. He sent another letter March 11, requesting the DEP order the operations to be changed.
"It is a little frustrating to me that we have not been able to get a response," Birkner said.
Birkner said he had recently reached out to Sen. Gerald Cardinale for assistance in getting attention from the DEP.