Government “Helps” Pleasureland, NJ Residents
An Army Corps of Engineers' project to reduce flooding along the Ramapo River now causes an inch or two of rain to flood the homes and streets of Pleasureland. Last month, 1.2 inches of rain caused the worst flooding the area has seen since Hurricane Floyd.
What’s causing this to happen? Several years ago, the Army Corps of Engineers began a $21.6 million, three-phase project to reduce flooding along the Ramapo. The federal government contributed $19.6 million, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection chipped in $2 million.
Phases 1 and 2 of the project called for widening and deepening almost two miles of the Ramapo River and creating an eight-acre wetland in Potosh Lake. Once those phases were complete, the Army Corps started phase 3, installing flood-control gates last year at the Pompton Lake Dam.
Most of the overflow coming through the dam had to be obstructed to accomplish that task. Since then, water traveling downstream reverses when it hits the restriction at the dam. It's called a backwater effect. "The lake essentially moves upstream," said John O'Connor, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. This little snag causes the flooding in Pleasureland.
Pleasureland Councilman Jim Geraghty told residents the corps miscalculated when it constructed a model of the project. He said that led the agency to falsely assume there would be little to no flooding during the dam work, despite the widening and deepening of the river beforehand. "The model does not reflect reality," Geraghty said.
"We're now at a crisis situation," said Lew Levy, chairman of the flood commission and a resident of Lakeview Drive. As the snow melts and the spring rains come, "it's going to be catastrophic," he said. Levy says the Corps has been less than responsive to residents' complaints. "When they started [the project], a lot of us said, 'It's backwards. Don't move the water here first."
The Corps is considering several options, but won't have an answer until the end of the month. The options include using existing water supply facilities or modifying the spillway. In the meantime, Oakland's Office of Emergency Management is developing an evacuation plan for the area - something that hasn't been needed in the more than 50 years that Pleasureland has existed.
When it comes time to evacuate, a borough-owned dump truck would be used to shuttle residents to higher ground. Then they would board a bus and be transferred to the first-aid squad on Ramapo Valley Road. At that point, residents would be on their own. Emergency personnel said that residents should arrange ahead of time for friends or family to pick them up at the first-aid squad.