New Jersey's winter armageddon: Finally highlighting the need to take flood prevention action
Mass snow melt and noreaster rain prove to be a disastrous combination for New Jersey’s Raritan River Valley.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 21:19
Most people probably know that New Jersey has been hit hard this winter by bad weather. However, many people across the country may not know truly how rough it has been. Parts of New Jersey got nearly 50 inches of snow in one of the worst and most destructive winters on record. Just today President Obama "ordered federal aid to be distributed to parts of southern New Jersey that were pummeled by a severe snowstorm in early February."
And when things couldn't seemingly get any worse, just last weekend New Jersey got smacked with a severe "noreaster," probably the worst non-snow storm since Hurricane Floyd in the late 1990s. Parts of the state experienced rain from late Friday (March 12) to Wednesday (March 17), with the worst rain and high winds coming during the weekend. Many residents lost power due to the storm, some parts of Bergen County lost power over the weekend and did not have it restored until as late as Thursday. I personally was without power from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night.
However, one good thing the storm did was really highlight a huge problem in parts of New Jersey that many residents probably didn't know about: flooding in the Raritan Valley. The Raritan River is a major river of central New Jersey. Over a dozen major streams, most coming from higher ground throughout the Watchungs, "dump into the Raritan in just a 1½ mile stretch of the river below the Bound Brook flatlands; a natural disaster created by geology but exacerbated by man." Three towns that get particularly hard hit are Bound Brook, Raritan and Manville.
So when the streams feeding into the short stretch of the Raritan River received between 4-6 inches of rain in a two day span, disaster occurred. Over a week later, major portions of the three previously mentioned towns are still under water. Houses have been destroyed, and people have lost millions of dollars worth of possessions. Some people still haven't gotten back into their houses to survey the damage.
Surprisingly, there is good news. "Plans to slow those rampaging streams with retention basins in the Watchungs were abandoned two years before Hurricane Floyd hit, but now, the Army Corp of Engineers wants to study the idea again," according to Theodore Bassman, chairman of the Green Brook Flood Control Commission. The ACOE has put in "a request into this year's federal Water Development Resources Act for $8 million to study up-terrain solutions to downstream flooding."
A retention basin is a flood-prevention practice that helps manage stormwater runoff to prevent flooding. Common in all retention basins is an artificial lake with vegetation around the perimeter, including a permanent pool of water.
When reading about the flooding and the ACOE plans for a solution, I find myself wondering something, which I know has truly been the main cause of all the heartache and disaster caused by nature, especially over the past 50 years.
The question I keep asking myself is, why do we humans keep expanding into places nature never meant us to be? We all hear stories every year about floods and wildfires destroying thousands of homes. The simple fact is we should never have built homes in areas susceptible to extreme flooding or potential for wildfires. When we hear about these disasters we often think of what we should or could have done to prevent them. However, I feel confident in saying we never consider the real solution, which is not expanding into areas nature never meant for us to be.
You might also like: