A few inches of rain can add up to numerous flooding problems across Rockland and neighboring Bergen County, N.J. A new Rockland-Bergen Flooding Mitigation Task Force will focus on problems and identify possible solutions.
Just a few inches of rain can add up to numerous flooding problems across Rockland.
Same goes for neighboring Bergen County, N.J.
Now, leaders in both counties have formed the Rockland-Bergen Flooding Mitigation Task Force to focus on the problems and identify possible solutions.
“This is not a New York problem. It’s not a New Jersey problem. It’s both of our problems,” New Jersey Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi said. “Flooding does not know the boundaries between our two states.”
Schepisi was among the elected officials who spoke about the new task force Wednesday near the banks of Lake Tappan in Orangetown, the deep-blue water stretching behind them.
The task force is meant to allow a coordinated and regionalized effort to address flooding issues when it comes to shared waterways, including streams, tributaries and the Hackensack, Mahwah, Ramapo and Saddle Rivers.
It will have 12 appointed members, six per state. In addition, it will include three non-voting members: New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection commissioner and a representative of United Water Inc.
United Water owns and operates reservoirs along several of the waterways that tend to flood when rain of any significance falls.
Bert Dahm, a West Nyack resident who has highlighted flooding problems in Rockland for years, was hopeful the task force could make a difference.
“This is an important, hopefully historic day for us here, to see New York finally coming to the table and becoming a full partner with our neighbors in Bergen County,” Dahm said.
“We’ve been repeatedly inundated in West Nyack by floods,” he said. “We know that there are things we can do, but with two states, different regulations, different political situations, it’s never seemed to be able to happen.”
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, D-New City, recalled working with the DEC to get water released from Lake DeForest reservoir before Superstorm Sandy in 2012 to protect homes from flooding.
Just a few hours after the release began, the downstream reservoirs in New Jersey were at capacity. People would think neighboring municipalities and states already work in a coordinated way, he said, but they don’t.
“So we need to come up with a mechanism to ensure that prior to the storms we’re looking at those type of things so there can be a coordinated effort,” Zebrowski said.
The officials spoke of the price of delaying solutions, too.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, said she tried to get a project in place after Suffern was devastated by Tropical Storm Floyd in 1999, one of the worst natural disasters to befall Rockland. But the project never moved forward, because it could not qualify for funding.
The village was again damaged when Tropical Storm Irene hit in 2011.
“If the state had invested in the Army Corps project, we would not have been standing there seeing the devastation in Suffern,” Jaffee said.
The officials don’t consider the task force a panacea, but a meeting place.
“It takes a multitude of municipalities, two states, elected officials to come together to tackle this issue, not by one silver bullet but by working together, coming up with a host of different ideas, different strategies that municipalities can implement at the most local level to help mitigate these flooding problems that have plagued New York and New Jersey for decades,” state Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, said.