View Full Version : I got a call from the EPA

John Smith
01-28-2012, 11:00 AM
Some time back I posted that I'd sent a letter to our governor, figuring that a Republican governor of a state with severe flood control needs, might have a chance of getting some help.

In that letter I made a couple of suggestions.

To make this a shorter read, there are now a number of various agencies involved in looking at how to solve this problem. My letter, with its suggestions had made it through many hands and the suggestions in it are being considered seriously.

The gentleman who called me did so as much from frustration as anything, but thought I'd like to know my suggestions are being considered.

For those who are not familiar with NJ, There have been places along the Passaci and Raritan rivers that had floods since I was a boy. Over the years the floods have gotten more frequent and more severe. Much of this is through unintended consequences of building in one place causing floods in another. In the 60's a highway was build north of Newark along the Passaic river bank. I'm told that parts of the river were narrowed a bit to fit the highway.

Both these rivers wind through many communities and are simply unable to move water down stream as fast has heavy rain dumps it on the area and the rivers overflow their banks.

One of my suggesions was to buy people out and help them move, then maybe build a lake or two to have a place to collect the water and then control its flow down river. The gentleman tells me buy outs are on the table, but it only works if all homeowners agree, and many don't want to move. Whether they are truly attached to frequent flooding or simply thing the offers will go up, I don't know. Also the towns along the way don't want to lose the taxable properties. All of this makes it more difficult to solve the problem.

My other idea, which "the engineers" are looking at as I write this concerns the speed the rivers take the water to Newark or Raritan Bay where they would easily be absorbed. The nature of NJ is that it's pretty flat, and the natural flow of excess rain downriver isn't very fast. I asked what the feasibility would be of building a pipe and pump system to move the excess water down stream faster than nature does. If we were to put intakes at carefully selected locations and run some pipes down river far enough to where the water would be safely absorbed, could we pump it fast enough to prevent flooding?

If we could do that successfully, maybe no one would need to be relocated.

The other point I brought up in my letter was that several buildings collapsed, including a hgh school, as the earth beneath them had eroded out from under. How do we know what the earth under other buildings in these areas is like? He told me that's being looked at, as it's a shared concern.

He never told me my letter spurred these ideas being looked at, but he thought I'd like to know they were being considered, which I thought was pretty neat.

I would love a couple of large lakes built, but that's not going to happen. If the 'engineers" figure out a pipe and pump system that they think will work, that likely will be done. If they can't figure out how to do that, I'm not sure anything will change.

I do know that years ago it was proposed to buy out and re-locate people, and that never happened. This guy's explanation of some people not willing to participate and it only works if everyone joins in.

George Jung
01-28-2012, 11:05 AM
Seems like an instance where invoking eminent domain would work, and would actually be appropriate. Nice to be an activist, isn't it?

I've been involved in the debates on the TransCanada pipeline, and have had some influence. Interesting to me - if you're opposing something 'big business' wants to do, they may try to make an example of you. It's best done by folks who are either self employed, or retired, or so damned rich they don't care - though it seems many of those folks are the ones causing the problems!

01-28-2012, 11:14 AM
if theyre considering this then you should let them know they should look into Pervious COncrete. It lets the water through pretty fast so water doesnt have to Run off.

John Smith
01-28-2012, 11:46 AM
I expect many people smarter than I are involved in this. It seems that all involved have accepted the fact floods will be more frequent and worse if nothing is done. What is strange is that so many people are in such strong opposition to so many of the proposed solutions.

I'm reminded of the lady in Atlantic City who was the last house on the block and kept hold out for more money for her property so the casino could be built. They finally built around her home. The front of her home was on the street. Casino walls on both sides, in back, and above. The greed factor can be a killer.

As to the floods, the bottom line is controlling the flow of the water. I think a couple of good sized lakes in the mix would be great. That would require re-locating many people, and with so many towns involved, it seems an impossible task. The court battles would take time.

To give those of you no familiar an idea of how it's gotten worse, Willowbrook Mall floods with some of the heavier rainfall, as the Passaic in that area runs by it. Before the mall, there was a drive in theatre where I went frequently. Behind heavy rains, we could take a walk before the movie and see the river slightly overflowing, but the theatre, to my knowledge, never flooded.

It's an interesting side note here that if we had an EPA back when a lot of the construction up river took place, and the studies were made then that are made now, we might not have this severe flooding problem.

This gentleman did say he'd keep my number and keep be informed. We'll see.

John Smith
01-28-2012, 11:51 AM
if theyre considering this then you should let them know they should look into Pervious COncrete. It lets the water through pretty fast so water doesnt have to Run off.

I didn't respond directly to this. I'm guessing this would require replacing existing concrete used in construction that's already in place.

In most of these communities the water is directed to the rivers, but the rivers can't handle it. If they can design a system that gets the water moving down river considerably faster, they can possible contain the entire thing within the rivers. That would seem to be a fairly good, and less costly, method, if they can do it and it works.

The floods come when the river overflows its banks because it can't carry the water downstream fast enough.

01-28-2012, 11:54 AM
My letter, with its suggestions had made it through many hands and the suggestions in it are being considered seriously.


01-28-2012, 12:08 PM
A highway drainage project ruined some great land that my father bought back in the 70s, some 20 years after the fact.** An old farm road that gave access to fields at the back of the tract had been used for a century or more, until the road project came along. My father assumed since the road had been useable year round for generations all he had to do was put in ditches and a few culverts and it would be good as new--old, rather.

What he failed to understand was that the old farm road was doomed by the highway drainage "improvements" that routed millions of gallons of run-off into a single stream. That During the rainy season that run-off crossed his property and washed out the road he was trying to revitalize. For several years he built and rebuilt. He finally sold the property to a developer who then sold it to another developer who went bust trying to turn those back fields into building lots. It seems everyone assumed the access problems could be resolved by throwing money and dirt at them. Every one of them failed and now it's in the hands of a bank.

**The highway project preceded his purchase of the land, not the other way around.

01-28-2012, 12:39 PM
I also suspect that E.P.A. has now registered you with homeland security as a possible threat and the call was to just see what they are dealing with...probably will get a visit from the F.B.I. in the near future..

So I will say my good byes now and wish you well John, I don't agree with you on, well almost everything but, with the
new N.D.A.A. law Obama signed you may end up being deported by the military and possible on your way on a long journey
to visit foreign countries. good luck .........

01-28-2012, 12:46 PM
Good job John,

San Antonio used a diversion tunnel to alleviate downtown flooding; http://safloodsafe.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=55&Itemid=70&lang=en

IIRC some of the equipment from the chunnel project was used to bore the tunnel.

01-28-2012, 09:39 PM
The biggest problem is that development, paving, compaction, vegetation loss, and similar changes in the land surface have caused water to run off rather than soak in. Streams cut their channels to fit the floods. But the historic flood peaks were lower and more gradual, because so much of the rain or snow infiltrated and traveled through the ground.

A Wal-Mart w/parking lot drains water faster than a cornfield, which drains water faster than a natural meadow or forest. A housing development with sloping roofs and driveways and roads and gutters, likewise. So a storm that wouldn't have caused a flood before now puts more water more quickly in the channels and they either scour to accommodate the flow or overflow like crazy.

The overflow deposits fine sediment and creates floodplains: no problem. Unless a bunch of idiots have built houses, etc. all over the floodplain and the floods, formerly a regular natural event that fostered healthy riparian vegetation and increased fertility, are now disasters.

Not sure the EPA can do much to fix it.