Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ramapo River: From Floods to Droughts

By Lisa Quaglino
In the past few years, attention has been brought to the Ramapo River due to flooding along its banks in New York and New Jersey. The flooding damaged homes, closed bridges and roads, and wrecked railroad tracks. The most severe flooding occurred in 2011 during Hurricane Irene, and more flooding took place in October 2012 due to Super Storm Sandy.

The reason flooding has caused so much damage has mostly to do with the fact that the towns bordering the river banks have developed so much land so close to the river. When roads and houses are built in close proximity, flooding will without a doubt cause damage to the homes, and make the roads dangerous to use or even impassible. Another issue with building roads so close to the river is erosion. The constant use of roads, such as 202 which borders the banks of the Ramapo River, leads to erosion, which in turn slowly adjusts the banks closer to the road. Eventually, construction will need to be done in order to make the road usable and safe for drivers who will find themselves dealing with flood issues more often than before. More work needs to be done to make sure that the erosion is stopped, and even reversed if possible, to prevent further damage.

Flooding is not the only issue that surrounds the river—just the opposite, droughts, are as possible as flooding. There have been talks about pumping water out of the river and into the Wanaque Reservoir, which could worsen drought conditions in other areas along the river. The main concern is that too much water will be pumped out of the river, which could not only worsen droughts, but also harm the wildlife that survives off of the river. By taking water out and moving it to a new location, more damage will be done than good.

Another main issue surrounding the Ramapo River is pollution. Events such as dam breaks or the misplacement of waste, similar to the mulching facility in Tuxedo, NY which lead to a massive fish kill, only further add to the stress of attempting to clean up pollution. Although there are efforts made by particular towns or organizations to clean up the river, without more help, their positive effects are limited to the areas they decided to focus on. More cooperation is needed by all the towns along the river, and even the states. If more groups and organizations stepped up in times of disaster,  in order to bring more national attention to the issue, more money or even help might be able to benefit the cause.

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