Monday, February 14, 2011

Lessons from an Unlikely Place - the Passaic River

We are often asked about the alternatives to beachfill as if there really aren't any. In fact there are quite a few, and we've unexpectedly found many of them all in one place. The report of The Passaic River Flood Advisory Committee

Amazingly, piling mounds of material on the banks of the river is NOT one of their recommendations. Yet many of their findings would work equally well on the coast as alternatives to the dredge, dump, and fill regimes. Others of course are unique to this river system. The complete list is below with the points that apply to the coast in bold type.

The Advisory Commission's comprehensive plan recommends:
1) Expanding and expediting floodway buyouts, with State Blue Acres funds and FEMA funds.
2) Encouraging home elevation projects in flood prone areas if acquisition is not an option.
3) Buying undeveloped land for use as flood storage areas.
4) Improving operation of the Pompton Lakes dam floodgates.
5) Initiating de-snagging and shoal dredging efforts to facilitate improved river flows.
6) Removing feeder dams to offer flood relief to Pompton Lakes, Wayne and Pequannock.
7) State adoption of National Flood Insurance Program regulations to ensure state rules are consistent with local flood control ordinances, and eliminating the risk that FEMA could suspend its flood insurance program in New Jersey.
8) Expediting the DEP's permit process to let towns more quickly obtain permits to de-snag and remove river debris, repair retaining walls and remove shoals.
9) Improving effectiveness and efficiency of county and local emergency response plans.
10) Enhancing the Passaic River flood warning system.
11) Contracting with the National Weather Service to create inundation maps to provide critical information to enable quicker flood projections and greater storm preparedness.
12) Enhancing public involvement, information and outreach on flood issues.
13) Requesting a re-evaluation by the Army Corps of Engineers of the larger potential major engineering projects for long-term flood damage reduction.
14) Updating floodplain mapping to eliminate decades-old maps that do not include detailed modeling of floodplains.
15) Having towns in the Passaic River Basin pursue flood risk reduction changes to their master plans, zoning ordinances and flood prevention ordinances, to guide future development away from floodplains or prevent future development in these high risk flood-prone areas.

If these solutions are good enough for the State of NJ in the Passaic River Basin, why are they not even discussed for our beaches and coastlines? Quite the opposite is true in NJ. Development has gone wild following beach replenishment making the entire coast even more vulnerable.

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