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State Officials Order Lowering of Woodcliff Lake Reservoir

Officials hope the reservoir will be able to lessen the severity of flooding when Hurricane Sandy hits.

Updated at 8:20 p.m.

United Water will perform a controlled release of water from the Woodcliff Lake Reservoir before Hurricane Sandy hits, state officials announced Friday night.

The release will take place over a period of 20 to 30 hours. Lake Tappan and the Oradell Reservoir will also be lowered.

"These actions are necessary due to the potentially unprecedented nature of the storm that is heading our way," Governor Chris Christie said in a press release. "A great deal of rainfall is expected which could cause major flooding, so we are taking every step we can to try to mitigate the potential flooding that could occur."

Sandy is expected to make landfall in New Jersey Monday.

Local officials had asked the utility to consider releasing water before the so-called "Frankenstorm" hits, like they did before Hurricane Irene hit last year. Having a lower amount of water in the reservoir allows it to collect more of the storm water and prevent it from flowing directly into the Pascack Brook and alleviate flooding of local homes, according to Westwood Mayor John Birkner.

Local Office of Emergency Management officials met with United Water Friday, but the company said they would not hold a controlled release, Hillsdale Mayor Max Arnowitz told Patch.

However, the governor and the Department of Environmental Protection can tell water companies to release water. Speaking in Hillsdale Friday afternoon, Guadagno said the reservoir was "one of many issues" state officials were discussing prior to Sandy arriving in New Jersey.

Arnowitz had discussed the issue with Guadagno during her visit and Birkner met with officials from the DEP and the governor's cabinet earlier Friday.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin noted that reservoirs are not typically used to prevent flooding. They decided to order the release due to the unusual nature of the storm, Martin said. United Water also released water from the reservoir prior to Hurricane Irene hitting last year.

Guadagno warned residents to be prepared for the storm, which she said could be "the storm of the century."

"You need to be prepared," Guadagno said. "You need to find out where you're going to go in an emergency."

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Jim Leggate at Jim.Leggate@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Westwoodian since '91 October 26, 2012 at 07:13 PM
What are they waiting for? Release the water!!
Jim Moldow October 27, 2012 at 08:14 AM
At the February 27th Westwood Town Hall meeting, I addressed Governor Christie about the NJDEP ordered spillway project at Woodcliff Lake reservoir, and was chided by the Governor about daring to ask a follow-up question (for fear of ending up on YouTube). I asked the Governor if he will make it a policy to order draw down of water supply reservoirs in advance of major storm events; and he absolutely promised to do so in all future storms. He made this commitment in front of TV cameras from every station in NY, News12 and print reporters. Glad the Governor stood by his word to us.... but wish he acted a few days sooner. Jim Moldow Independent Candidate Hillsdale, NJ
westwood kid October 27, 2012 at 12:15 PM
the water level should have been dropped on wednesday!!!!! by now its too late and the level will never be low enough to support all the rain that is on the way!!! PEOPLE IN THE LOWER AREA OF HILLSDALE BETTER GET OUT AND GET A BOAT READY BECAUSE YOU WILL NEED IT!!!
Gary Conkling October 27, 2012 at 12:24 PM
This storm appears to be something that has not been seen in our life time. If the area gets hit like is predicted emptying the reservoirs will have no effect. Hopefully the dam does not over top which would be a bigger problem. All you can do is be prepared and Stay safe
jeff October 27, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Getting this done in a timely manner is like turning the Titanic! We knew the storm was coming days ago! Why are the gates opening on Friday! We need to have a better reaction time.
Barry Black October 27, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Actually the water in Woodcliff Lake Reservoir represents less than 7% of the raw water storage. They could empty the reservoir prior to the storm, without affecting water supply, because after the storm, the reservoir would be full again. It's really that simple, but there is a mindset at the water company that just won't change!
Barry Black October 27, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Actually Governor Christie would do a lot more good if he stood on the Jersey shore and bellowed and all that hot air would probably blow the storm out to sea!!!
Gary Conkling October 28, 2012 at 04:43 PM
according to USGS Woodcliff Lake is at 90.92 ft since yesterday.
Tony Galiano October 30, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Thanks to the efforts of the mayors & residents of hillsdale & westwood we avoided another disaster. The mayors continous efforts to have the governor issue the order to lower the reservoir with no help from the DEP or the stuborn water Co. prevented flooding in our area. If the water co. had done this last year, we would had never flooded. I hope the governor now understands our problem & convinces the stubborn officers at the DEP & United Water who just don't understand the problem. THEY HAVE BEEN THE MAIN PROBLEM OF OUR FLOODING ISSUE.

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