Two bills have been introduced into the New Jersey state Legislature in response to continued flooding occurring throughout northern Bergen County, most recently during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
The first bill, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Schroeder (R-Washington Township) and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Paramus) would order reservoirs be lowered during weather emergencies in order to control flooding.
This bill would require action plans for flood-prone reservoirs and authorize the State Office of Emergency Management to order that the owners of reservoirs and dams release water during severe storms as a means to mitigate flooding.
“If we learned anything from the historic storms that have struck this year, it’s that people cannot continue to endure perpetual flooding without new solutions,” Schroeder, R-Bergen, said. “This proposal is a logical and proactive approach that will help mitigate flooding before it occurs.”
The bill also gives the state OEM the authority to order lower water levels of these reservoirs to ease the severity of flooding that results from storms, such as Irene.
“This is a key step toward a comprehensive long-term solution to the chronic flooding that has been a real nightmare for people in Bergen County and throughout New Jersey,” Schroeder said.
Owners of flood-prone reservoirs would be required to submit Flood Action Plans to the state Department of Environmental Protection and in return they would receive indemnification against claims that are related to the implementation of the plan.
“This measure will help us find a way to keep our residents’ homes safe from flooding but keep drinking water accessible.” Assemblywoman Wagner said, “We must all work together to find comprehensive solutions to our flooding problems. This legislation will help that process.”
The second bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Fairlawn), would allow municipalities to use open space trust funds (Green Acres) for the purchase of flood-prone properties.
The reasoning is that this would keep taxpayers from repeatedly paying to repair flooded properties while providing a buffer to help protect nearby properties from future flooding. The state currently has about $26 million dedicated to Blue Acres purchases.
The money raised through local open-space taxes, which is subject to voter approval, could be used to buy out homeowners, knock down flood-prone structures and turn the property into parks.
But United Water spokesman Richard Henning said lowering reservoirs during weather emergencies is not the best way to control flooding.
In response to these bills, Henning told Patch, "This legislative bill co-sponsored by Schroeder and Wagner is very shortsighted. (Gordon) has an excellent bill to use Green Acres money for (acquiring) Blue Acres property that United Water fully supports. This is the long term view."
He continued, "Any use of the reservoir (to control flooding) is not in the best interest of all of our customers and not in the best interest of water supply."