Progress Update: Flooding in Verona
Yesterday we had a day of heavy rain, and when it starts coming down my mind is always on whether or not our community can handle these weather events. I wanted to give a quick update on some progress we have made on addressing flooding risks caused by the Peckman River and where additional progress needs to be made.
When our new Township Manager started 5 months ago, the first issue I raised with him was flooding with the Peckman River. He immediately led a team of employees that resolved several critical issues. Verona got the necessary permits to do emergency debris removal from the Peckman and completed that work. Several dangerous trees were removed. In addition, Verona stabilized the banks of the Peckman with an emergency permit were the erosion was a threat to local businesses. Our administration is now applying for DEP permits for bank stabilization in several key spots, including by our water/sewer treatment plant.
Based on feedback I received from residents, our Township Manager also discussed with the County the ability to lower the level of Verona Park Lake in advance of known weather events that are predicted to generate excessive amounts of rainfall. The County and Verona tested out a process by which the lake could be lowered in order to be prepared for future events.
Due to the direct result of Councilwoman Holland's efforts, Rutgers University completed a study of the Peckman River for us for free and presented results to the public. You can read my recap of their presentation here. The Administration is using this study to come up with several longer-term recommendations.
Through my relationship with Congresswoman's Sherrill's office, the Congresswoman came to Verona in December with representatives from the Army Corp of Engineers and the head of NJ DEP to show them firsthand the issues with the Peckman (to read more about that visit, go here). As a direct result of that visit, Congresswoman Sherrill put a funding request in the 2022 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) that states the following:
A general Investigation Watershed Study of the Peckman River, for the towns of Verona, Cedar Grove, West Caldwell and the surrounding areas, which have long been subject to frequent and damaging flooding.
This act was passed by the House on June 8th and is waiting for Senate approval. Should this get approved by the Senate, then there will be money available for the Army Corp of Engineers to do a study of the Peckman River. This is a critical step to address over the long term how to engineer solutions to prevent flooding of the Peckman. You can read Congresswoman's Sherrill's full press release on the bill here.
Finally, upon my request, I asked the Verona administration to set up one page on our website with updates on what work is happening with the Peckman and a single point of contact for residents. You can find that page here: https://www.veronanj.org/peckmanriver.
Significant work still needs to be done to address issues with flooding in our community. There are some plans in the works to address flooding in the Wayland section from run-off from the Montclair golf course, start routine maintenance that needs to be done to keep our stormwater systems in working order, and understand better our stormwater system to prioritize upgrades and expansion to improve how it functions during extreme rainfall events. We are also considering how best to partner with neighboring towns, especially Cedar Grove, to be able to jointly advocate and fund long term solutions for the Peckman.
Residents impacted by flooding should continue to voice their concerns and suggestions as we navigate through these issues. Your engagement is key. Feel free to send your comments to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/council.