A blueprint for flood relief
Monday, July 23, 2007

NJ.com: Everything Jersey

The Delaware River Flood Mitigation Task Force, a 31-member group of officials from four states that border the Delaware River, has come up with a host of recommendations that should mitigate future flood problems.

Foremost among them are immediately identifying flood- prone properties for buyouts and better managing water levels in New York State reservoirs. It's this kind of multi- state cooperation that should lessen the frequency of the floods, and when they happen, reduce their financial impact.

Property buyouts are never easy. People are reluctant to move, especially when they recall their many years of enjoy ment living along the picturesque and generally peaceful Delaware. But the major floods of September 2004, April 2005 and June 2006 remain painful memories for residents of towns and neighborhoods up and down the river. They are also costly memories not only for the property owners but also for the taxpaying public, which foots the bill for emer gency services and federal emergency relief.

In addition to the task force recommendations, New Jersey is doing its part to come up with funds for the buyouts. A ballot measure this November, if approved by voters, would set aside $20 million of a $100 million Blue Acres bond issue for buyouts.

For its part, New York state water management officials say they will increase the release of water from their reservoirs to make the river's flow more natural. At the same time, they say, reservoirs will not be ex posed when drought situations occur.

It appears the task force listened to the public when form ing its recommendations over the last five months. It added a provision for coordinating emergency preparedness when there's a threat of ice-jam flooding. It was only 11 years ago that ice jams caused water to breach the river's banks, catching local officials by surprise.

The next step in the process is to have state and federal officials and the Delaware River Basin Commission adopt the recommendations. The sad reality is that the river will still flood from time to time. All the more reason for agencies in all four states to begin implement ing the task force proposals now.

© 2007 The Times of Trenton
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