Letter to the editor
To the editor:
I don’t know how anyone can be satisfied with the results of a 15-year, $6.8 million dollar flood study that basically says Manville is not worth it and that nothing can or will be done to lower flood water levels in our lifetimes because of some subjective "cost-to-benefit" calculation.
Does our government use a similar calculation when the United States gave away $37 billion in foreign aid in 2013 alone and got nothing back in return? Isn’t it time we put Americans first and fix some of our problems here at home? New Jersey is near the bottom in receiving federal aid per federal tax dollars sent to Washington, D.C., of the 50 states.
At the last regional flood commission meeting held in Somerville on Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Army Corps of Engineers presented final "cost-to-benefit" ratios of the three proposed plans to help mitigate our serious flooding problems. The information presented was not favorable and very disappointing, to say the least.
For any mitigation option to move forward with 65 percent federal sponsorship of the cost share, the "cost-to-benefit" ratio of the proposed plan needs to be greater than 1.0. Of all the options presented, the highest calculated "cost-to-benefit" ratio was a disappointing 0.49, which indicated there will be no federal sponsorship of any plan to help reduce flood waters in Manville, Hillsborough or Millstone.
Of the flood study’s three options, a levee and flood wall design similar to what we have seen built in Bound Brook returned a 0.45 ratio. The channel modification plan – the deepening and widening of the Raritan River past the Island Farm weir — returned a low 0.18 ratio and was the most expensive but possibly the best option at approximately $140 million.
The last option, named the non-structural plan included elevations of homes, more buyouts and home flood proofing. It entailed numerous scenarios, of which one returned the highest ratio of 0.49, but still well under 1.0 or above.
The obvious question now is where do we go from here? The Raritan River basin may have already passed the tipping point of having too much impervious surface (e.g., buildings and paved surfaces) placed within its 1,100 square miles as development continues all around us upstream. With recent changes to the funding requirements of projects sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers, it now places a 10 percent cost-share burden on the local municipality. Taxpayers of Manville would be asked to foot part of the bill for a problem we really didn’t cause. We simply could never afford to do so. I find asking for local funding to be the ultimate irony in the end.
Getting residents out of harm’s way before the next big flood hits seems to be the only viable option. In the years ahead, more buyout funding from the state’s Blue Acres program and any elevation grant program from FEMA seem to be the best options available to bring relief to residents of Manville living in our flood zones. So the question remains: Why can’t something be done to help lower flood water levels in the Raritan River basin?
Richard M. Onderko