(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic) to help minimize future flooding in low-lying towns in the Hackensack Meadowlands District was released by an Assembly panel on Monday.
The area is susceptible to flooding and towns like Little Ferry and Moonachie in Bergen County were among some of the hardest hit in New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy struck last year.
“Hurricane Sandy was unprecedented. The tidal surge that caused the flooding in this area during the storm was unprecedented. Clearly we must prepare for the unprecedented,” said Caride. “The weather is only getting more severe. The damage caused by flooding is not only financial, but is also emotionally tolling. There are some residents who a year after the storm are still putting the pieces back together. The sight of rain is enough to drive some into panic mode. In order to be better prepared when the next storm hits and limit the impact on residents and business owners, we must be proactive.”
The first bill (A-4316) establishes the Meadowlands Flood Advisory Task Force, which would be charged with reviewing past flooding events within the Hackensack Meadowlands District. The task force would consist of 21 members as follows: the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, or the commissioner’s designee; the Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, or the director’s designee; the director of the State Office of Emergency Management, or the director’s designee; two members of the Senate appointed by the Senate President; two members of the General Assembly appointed by the Assembly Speaker; the mayor, or the mayor’s designee for the municipalities within the district; one representative from the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management; one representative from the Hudson County Office of Emergency Management; one representative of the academic community with expertise, knowledge or experience in meadowlands or wetlands ecosystems and habitat; one representative of an environmental organization with expertise, knowledge or experience in meadowlands or wetlands ecosystems and habitat; one representative from the Meadowlands Conservation Trust; and one member of the public with expertise in engineering, flood, mitigation, public planning, environmental protection or related issues.
The bill also recommends measures to reduce future impacts of flooding on residents, businesses and local government units within the district and surrounding areas. The Hackensack Meadowlands District includes Carlstadt, East Rutherford, Little Ferry, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, North Arlington, Ridgefield, Rutherford, South Hackensack and Teterboro in Bergen County, and Jersey City, Kearny, North Bergen and Secaucus in Hudson County.
The second bill (A-4288) amends current law to expand the powers of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to specifically include flood control activities. The commission has numerous responsibilities, but current law only provides that the master plan for the district may include provisions for flood control. The bill Caride is proposing would make it a requirement.
“The commission is responsible for maintaining a balance between development in the district and protecting its natural resources. It seems fit that the commission, with already so much insight and influence over the district, would be the right entity to take on efforts to minimize the threat of future flooding in these communities,” said Caride.
The bills were approved by the Assembly Environment Committee; and will now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.