Friday, April 8, 2011

Bistate River Commission Bill Aims to Sort out Flood Problems Once and For All

By John Clancey

In the wake of this past month’s floods, local officials have called for new legislation regarding water management. On March 7 New Jersey Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee approved bipartisan legislation that would create a Bistate River Commission for coordinated flood management with communities within Rockland County. The newly created commission would not only look for new ways to prevent flood damage but protect the rivers and streams as well.

"We have been fighting flooding problems along our streams and reservoirs for years," stated Assembly Republican Charlotte Vandervalk(Hillsdale), one of the bills prime sponsors. "While we respect geographic boundaries, overflowing water does not."

The legislation proposes to create an 18-member Commission dedicated to the cooperation of governments in both New Jersey and New York. This commission, selected by elected officials of both parties and states, would protect streams flowing south from Rockland County into Bergen County. These waterways include the Hackensack River, Sparkill Brook, Saddle River, Ramapo River as well as their tributaries and flood prone communities.

The bill’s other primary supporter, Assembly Republican Bob Schroeder (Township of Washington), stated, “Now, our communities can work together to resolve flooding issues in an inclusive, holistic way."

The much needed bill comes as a great relief to local residents who for years have been at the mercy of flash floods and crippling water damage. Stories of residents catching trout in their basement, while farfetched, are not uncommon. Storms like Hurricane Floyd have ravaged the area in the past, turning local parking lots into sizable watering holes. With this bill in place, supporters suggest resident can look forward to a day when all those things are just a product of the past.

Perhaps even more interesting is the committee’s proposed Commission’s focus on environmental protection. In a region that is marked with the constant development of new housing, local water ways have indeed suffered. For towns to battle this ongoing pollution it is key to collaborate cleanup efforts in order to void redundant re pollution. "It makes no sense for a community to desilt and desnag its streams only to have an upstream neighbor literally 'muddy the waters',” stated Vandervalk. “What happens upstream in New York affects us downstream here in New Jersey.”

The bill looks to usher in a new age of collaboration and environmental responsibility for both states. It marks a turning point in both waterway management and social responsibility. "Stream management and flooding mitigation are ongoing problems that require ongoing efforts," concluded Schroeder. “We need a regional approach if we are truly going to get a handle on the problem. This bill will put us a long way toward that goal."

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