This originally appeared in The Star-Ledger.
Flood-weary Pequannock gives land back to the riverPEQUANNOCK — Pequannock is plagued by the Pompton River overflowing its banks almost every March. It is becoming as certain as spring, and the river flooded again last summer after Hurricane Irene.
But a project meant to protect homeowners from flooding is one step closer to completion. The fourth phase of the Pompton Riverwalk was finished last week, according to a statement from the Land Conservancy of New Jersey.
"This open space and flood mitigation project protects residents and provides flood storage, open space and public access to the Pompton River for future generations," a statement from the conservancy said.
The strategy is to buy the land near the river and return it to open space to try to slow the floodwaters.
The preservation has created a new community park, known as the Pompton Riverwalk.
"This program has also provided homeowners the opportunity to be removed from the floodway, which just recently had waters in excess of 10 feet high on the property," said Frank Spizzirri, chairman of the Pequannock open space advisory committee. "Irene was the worst in town since 1902 and worse than 1984, to say the least. The owners are very excited about the buyout and are searching for a new place in town to settle."
The fourth phase of the project preserved six properties: the Gidi property on North Pequannock Avenue, the Shudtz property on Riverside Drive, the Berkshire property on Harrison Road, the Hunt property on Riverside Drive, the Soldatenkov property on Pequannock Avenue and the Weir property on Pequannock Avenue.
Last November, Morris County freeholders approved the fifth and final phase of the project. Pequannock will receive $988,000 to buy the land portion of six properties totaling 1.2 acres.
"The first four phases of this project were funded with assistance from the county open-space program, and most of the properties in these phases are now preserved," Freeholder Ann Grossi said at the time. "This latest acquisition will fill in the gaps between existing preserved lands and further Pequannock’s goal of creating a linear park along the Pompton River."
Since its initial grant request, the township has received more than $1.8 million from Morris County and more than $1.7 million from the state’s Green Acres program for the Riverwalk project.
"The success of the Pompton Riverwalk project is the result of a well-planned strategy to convert these flood-prone residences to an interconnected park system along the river for the enjoyment of current and future township residents, and will also reduce the township’s emergency and cleanup costs following future major flooding in the area," said Gregory Collins of the Land Conservancy.