City takes steps to curb flooding
Announces varied approach
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
May 19, 2013 | 3418 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DIRE CIRCUMSTANCES – As recent events have shown, any strong rainstorm during high tide will most likely result in severe flooding around Hoboken.
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Mayor Dawn Zimmer announced on Wednesday a plan to install a $9 million emergency flood pump station on 11th Street near the Hudson River, which she said would help alleviate the city’s long-term flooding problem.

Zimmer called it the first phase of an “integrated solution” to protect Hoboken from future storm surges.

She was joined Wednesday by representatives from the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA) and United Water, the entities that have collaborated with the city on various hazard mitigation grants,

Following Hurricane Sandy, the administration filed grant applications with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to build three new pumps, including the one on 11th Street. In addition to the applications for the grants to fund the pumps, the city has applied for nearly $126 million in other types of aid. Zimmer has repeatedly referred to Hoboken’s situation as an emergency, and has urged various officials in Trenton to expedite grant process.

But Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno said last week that the city’s applications would be treated equally with applications by other New Jersey municipalities, such as those on the Jersey Shore that incurred damage equal to or more severe than Hoboken’s.

“To her credit, the mayor is a great advocate for Hoboken, but the governor has to be an advocate for the entire state,” Guadagno said in a local daily paper. “We are trying to do the best we can with the resources we have.

Zimmer said that Trenton’s plan was understandable, and noted that she hoped Hoboken’s proactive approach to treat its own wounds would bode well for the city.

“Like [Guadagno] said, this is going to take time, and the reality is that a lot of needs will be unmet because of limited funding,” said Zimmer. “We are demonstrating to the state and the federal government that we are willing to be partners.”

Touting the success of a similar pump that was built on Observer Highway following Hurricane Irene in 2011, Zimmer said that the second pump, which has already been designed by the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA), will lessen flooding on the northwest end of the city.

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“We are demonstrating to the state and the federal government that we are willing to be partners.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer

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The pump will tentatively have a capacity of 50 million gallons per day, and would be most effective at mitigating flooding that results from heavy rainstorms which occur during high tide, like the floods that occurred two weeks ago.

The city will take out a low-interest loan from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to cover the cost of the pump, pending the approval of the City Council. The city would own the pump, though NHSA has agreed to pay for the engineering permits, as well as the pump’s operation and maintenance costs – an estimated $4.8 million over the next 20 years.

‘Comprehensive plan’

The flood pumps, including the one on 11th Street and the two that may or may not be approved by FEMA, are just one aspect of the mayor’s plan to protect Hoboken against further flood damage.

Besides the grants for the pumps, the city has submitted applications for seven other hazard mitigation grants, totaling $126 million. One grant, for $44 million, will go towards erecting flood barriers on the north and south ends of town. Zimmer announced that plan in her State of the City address in February to mixed reviews, though the most recent floods may have swayed public opinion in her favor.

The city has also applied for $80 million to acquire three tracts of land on the west end of town – on the corners of Seventh Street and Jackson Street, Paterson Avenue and Jackson Street, and 12th Street and Adams Street – where Zimmer said massive underground detention basins could be constructed. The basins would help to retain the heavy flow of stormwater so as not to back up Hoboken’s combined sewer system (stormwater and sewage travel through the same pipes).

Other grants, such as one for approximately $1.7 million to purchase permanent emergency backup generators for the police station, fire stations and municipal garage, will be used to strengthen the city’s emergency response to further storm surges.

Two grants would fund public awareness campaigns and alert systems, including $125,000 to build a series of solar-powered message signs around town that would warn residents of impending flooding and advise them to move their cars to higher ground. Another, for $100,000, would continue to fund the city’s Community Emergency Response Team, a group of civilians who have elected to train in flood response protocols. According to Zimmer, 67 Hoboken residents have already completed the course.

Political implications

It’s possible that in addition to bolstering the city’s defenses against future storm surges, Zimmer is bolstering her own record ahead of the November mayoral election in which she faces Assemblyman Ruben Ramos.

Following the severe flooding two weeks ago, Ramos issued a press release putting forth his own flood plan. The candidates’ plans resemble each other. Ramos’ plan involves three pumps along the river, ensuring new construction and refurbishments are done with special attention to hazard mitigation, and a review of the city’s infrastructure.

Zimmer declined to comment on Ramos’ plan, noting that she’s “not worrying about the election right now. I’m focusing on governing.”

Federal legislation may help



Zimmer joined U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-8th Dist.) on the corner of Garden Street and Newark Street earlier this month to announce a new piece of legislation that would expand hazard mitigation funds for states like New Jersey that adhere to certain construction codes.

“We want to give residents the opportunity to make their homes better and stronger than before the storm,” said Menendez.

The 16 states that stand to benefit the most from the bill tend to subscribe to one of three sets of codes. New Jersey adheres the to the International Code Council’s (ICC) codes, while many western states employ the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ (IAPMO) codes, and still more use the codes set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

After thanking Menendez and Sires for introducing the legislation, Zimmer announced that $50,000 grants are now available to Hoboken business owners, and residential grants will soon be made available.

DeanDeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com.

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