Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ramapo River: The Pompton Dam Situation

By Stephanie Noda

The Ramapo River has had its share of flooding issues in the past. According to a press release from Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, the towns of Pompton Lakes, Wayne, and Oakland had the possibility of being flooded in the spring of 2006, since this has occurred in past years. If this flooding was left unchecked, it had the possibility of destroying homes and killing citizens. Bill Pascrell, a local congressman on the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, issued a press release that stated the cause of this flooding was created by “insufficient channel capacity, the backwater effect produced by the Pompton Dam and hydraulic constrictions produced by bridges that cross the water.” The press release goes on to say that this catastrophe could be averted if a flood protection program that is helping the Ramapo River receives $2.5 million. Senator Lautenberg and Senator Robert Menendez cited the Oakland flood plain that needed to be addressed. This flood control plan would include two contracts, according to Lautenberg’s press release: “(1) a channel modification of 5,800 feet of the Ramapo River and (2) the installation of flood control gates at the existing Pompton Lakes Dam.”

Lautenberg and Menendez’s fears of a flood that could harm their citizens were not unfounded; they sent a letter to the Senate Committee Chairman Domenici and Ranking Member Reid, to address the concerns of the Ramapo River. The main issues that these officials were worried about was the lack of a dam modification. In March 2006, the Pompton Lakes Dam flood control gates was not complete; although the “channel modification contract” has been completed, the installation of the flood gates was to be finished in August. However, according to Lautenberg and Menendez’s letter, “completing the existing contract on the Pompton Lakes Dam in FY06 will require an estimated $3.8 million, but only $1.3 million was provided to the Ramapo River at Oakland flood control project in the 2006 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act (P.L. 109-103).” The officials go on to add that an additional $2.5 million would be required to “complete the Pompton Lakes contract and to prevent shutdown or termination of the contract.”

The officials believe that created flood control gates at the Pompton Lakes Dam on the Ramapo River is the best way to solve the flooding problem in the area. This concern is probably fueled by the tragic Hurricane Katrina event in New Orleans in 2005; floodwaters from the storm destroyed the city due to the failures of the levee system. Lautenberg and Menendez’s goal in sending the Senate a letter was to prevent that sort of disaster in New Jersey.

“The Katrina disaster showed us first-hand the tragedy that can occur with dilapidated dams and floodgates,” stated Lautenberg and Menendez.

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