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Editorial - 97Mar02

Army Corps of Engineers Should Extend Deadline for Comments on Flood Project

This past Monday night Union County residents had their first opportunity to hear of plans by the Army Corps of Engineers in regard to their $362 million Green Brook Flood Control Project. As for the impact on Union County, the plans include construction of a 1,120-foot-long and 41-foot-high detention basin in the Watchung Reservation in Berkeley Heights and Scotch Plains. A second flood basin is proposed for Watchung and Berkeley Heights.

The project will receive $265 million in funding from the federal government, $73 million from the state, and $24 million to be paid collectively by Union, Middlesex and Somerset Counties over the course of the 12-year project.

Construction of the detention basins has been proposed as a solution to holding back water from the Watchung Mountains which is causing flooding in Scotch Plains, Plainfield and North Plainfield after heavy rains. The overall project is in response to the devastating flooding for more than a century, the worst being the one in 1973 which killed six persons and injured 36 while causing $80 million in damages.

Monday’s meeting almost did not occur as Union County was not included among those counties to host a public hearing. However, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chairwoman Linda d. Stender of Fanwood sent a letter to the Army Corps and Freeholder Henry W. Kurz spoke to a representative of the Corps at a previous hearing on holding a similar hearing in this county.

Mrs. Stender has asked for the Friday, March 7, deadline for public comments to be extended, perhaps by 90 days, to give the Freeholders and public time to obtain additional information regarding the massive project. We would like to point out that each of the three county governments must approve the project in order for it to move forward.

At the present time it seems doubtful Union County Freeholders will support the plans. Freeholder Stender has said she would like an engineer to review the Army Corps plans before the board takes any official action regarding the proposal. We feel such a delay is not too much to ask, given the scope of the project.

The Sierra Club has announced its opposition to the project over concerns which have been addressed over the impact the project will have on the ecological system in the reservation.

We ask that the Freeholders continue to act cautiously regarding this proposal by not acting until each member has a full understanding of the project including the pros and cons for Union County. The Watchung Reservation is a treasure for the county which must be preserved for generations to come.

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