Residents of Passaic County Take A Hard Hit After tropical storm Hurricane Irene hit northern New Jersey, many were displaced from their homes and lost all of their belongings. Some families had to use canoes and rafts to paddle their way out of their house or to access belongings. President Obama declared Passaic County as one of the hardest hit counties and declared it a disaster area, which allows FEMA to provide aid faster to those in need (Holley). This has not been the ? rst time that the Passaic River has ? ooded due to heavy rain.
Residents of Passaic County have been plagued with the dilemma of the Passaic River ? ooding for over one hundred years. The battle has been raging since 1903, which was the ? rst major recorded ? ood in Passaic County (Gansberg, “Passaic Balks” 19). Every year in New Jersey forty eight million dollars in damages is incurred every year from damages due to ? ooding (Gansberg, “New Jersey” 1). Perhaps the residents of Passaic County are wondering why the governments have not come up with a solution to an out of control situation, or why time and time again they are getting ?
ooded. There have been many proposals as to what would correct the heavy ? ooding in the Passaic County area. In 1936, Congress decided to put the Army Corps of Engineers in charge of the ? ooding in Passaic River water basin (Hanley 18). Since then, the Corps has spent millions researching and coming up with plans to alleviate the ? ooding. The process is very long and costly, and it has to be approved by the public in the towns of Passaic County before any of the plans can be put into action (Hanley 1).
The ? rst plan the Corps came up with after doing extensive research, was a thirteen mile underground water tunnel that would transport water from Little Falls to less likely ? ood zones such as Nutley (Hanley7). The proposal for the water tunnel has been an issue that has been debated over for over forty years. Some believe that the only way to correct the ? ooding is to build the water tunnel, but others do not agree. Environmentalists believe that building the tunnel would mar the native wetlands and potentially contaminate drinking water (Sauro 1).
Others are concerned that the tunnel will create unwanted and unnecessary ? ooding in their towns (Sauro 1). According to the assistant director of the conservation at the New Jersey Audubon Society, “ I say this project is going to be the geologic and hydrologic equivalent of the Hubble Space Telescope- a ? asco” (Sauro 1). There is no evidence that the tunnel will be successful. Then there is the question of where New Jersey would get the money to fund a $150 million dollar project (Sauro 1).
Legislators believe that New Jersey cannot afford it. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Governor Chris Christie Both believe that the ? ood tunnel is not feasible and believe that buying the houses from those of which get repeatedly ? ooded is a better idea (Sauro 1). This tunnel does not seem like a practical idea for those who get ? ooded every year, building a tunnel of this magnitude would surely take many years to build. This is time that these residents cannot spare while living in these hazardous ? ood zones. There have been many other proposals since the water tunnel that residents feel may be a better solution to the problem.
Assemblyman Steve Adubato Jr. came up with a proposal in 1985 to do the buyout plan which would relieve the communities of their plight and restore the land back to its natural way (“Worried Wayne”). The government believes this plan can be bene? cial because of the low price market of homes (Sauro 4).
This plan is touchy with some residents because they do not all wish to leave and be relocated. Marion Detach, a Wayne resident said, “The officials ask us why we live where we live. That’s a stupid question.
We live here because we can’t afford to live anywhere else” (“Worried Wayne”.To those who do not wish to leave it may seem insulting, but Passaic County was simply not meant to be built on. It is well known that Wayne, New Jersey, which is a part of Passaic County, was once all oak marshes before being built on. Oak is like a sponge compared to other woods and soaks a lot of water. The Federal government is actually in the process of buying out homes in Passaic County and is only buying out those who wish to sell (“FEMA Public”). This may be a solution to those who wish to sell their homes in Passaic County.
In most recent news regarding the Passaic River, a committee has been formed to remove Beatties Dam in Little Falls (Somers 1) The committee believes that this will alleviate the ? ooding and wont affect any down stream towns negatively (Somers 1). Little Falls engineer Charlie Busch believes, “If man removed what man put in place, we would not have ? ooding. Man is actually the cause of ? ooding” (Somers 1). No decision will be made regarding Beatties Dam until spring of 2012 (Somers 2). The problem with these committees is that they will spend so much money researching the Passaic River to just get the idea voted down.
It is highly probable that this idea will never come to fruition because it will never be agreed upon by downstream towns such as Nutley. Most parents have no idea what it is like to bury their own child and not be able to afford it. This is not the case for long time Little Falls resident Anna Martinez, “Our house was completely ruined from Hurricane Irene, a month later my son passed away. We couldn’t even afford to bury our own son… the Red Cross had to pay for his waking and funeral. We lost everything in Hurricane Irene, all of our savings went to trying to cover the costs of reconstructing our home”(jones).
Out of a survey conducted by 36 college students at Bergen Community College 85% of students were affected by ? ooding or knew someone who was; and out of those who were ? ooded 75% had to pay out of their own pocket for damages (jones survey). It is inexcusable and outrageous that people like Anna Martinez had to put everything that she had in her savings towards ? xing the damages to her home. It seems that there are no clear cut answers to the problems that continue to haunt the residents of Passaic County.
A solution will be agreed upon it is just a matter of time. It can be exhausting waiting for a decision, and it is a possibility that it could take another one hundred years to get it ? gured out! There are just too many opinions when it comes to the wellbeing of the county and the River. The bill for the creation of the tunnel has not passed, but the buyout program is in favor now as well as raising homes to prevent ? ooding. The problem is not Mother Nature or the river, the problem is all of the homes and businesses that lie beside it.
I do not believe that the answer to everyone’s problems lies in the river, rather the federal government should take more action and start putting the buyout and the raises into motion. Passaic County should come together and ? gure out what could be done and what would be bene? cial for everyone. If the Passaic River has ? ooded for over a hundred years there isn’t much that can be done now. It’s like chasing a rainbow and hoping for a pot of gold at the end. What needs to be done is major restoration and parts of Passaic County need to be returned to their natural way or else disaster will strike again, and it may be much worse.