WHY DOES HOBOKEN FLOOD?
by Christopher M. Halleron
(above photo via twitter @mtaHarlemLine)
Yesterday our residents saw yet another Hoboken flood event. Rain continues to fall today, and an active threat of flooding remains at least throughout the day, if not throughout the week.
As with any flood event here in Hoboken, there have been a lot of knee-jerk reactions to the situation on the ground. Let’s try to take an objective look at some of the factors in play here:
WHY DOES HOBOKEN FLOOD?
- Because it rains.
That may sound like a glib answer, but a fact is a fact. The rainfall on Sunday was a significant event, flooding large swathes of Northern New Jersey, with areas reporting over 5 inches of rainfall.
Here’s another interesting fact for you—Hoboken is an island… or at least it was, until it was arguably overdeveloped. There’s also the fact that it sits on the western bank of the Hudson River’s natural flood plain—right at the base of the Palisades. When rain falls, it comes down the river, down the cliffs and pools in the back end of Hoboken, as it has for millennia.
- Because Hoboken is overdeveloped.
The reason the impact of this flooding is so dramatic is because there has been a large amount of development in the areas of town prone to flooding. The reality is that this water needs to go somewhere. Unfortunately, infrastructure has not kept pace with the development. Until recently, Hoboken’s sewer lines still had some of the wooden box sewer ducts from the 1870’s.
Let’s take a look at that little tidbit again—we have WOODEN SEWERS.
North Hudson Sewerage Authority is in the process of replacing those lines. Furthermore, a wet weather pump is needed to target that specific area of town.
- Because of Hoboken politicians.
As powerful as they might think they are, Hoboken politicians do not control the weather. But they do control how we react to it.
Take the aforementioned wet weather pump, for instance…
Back in December, the Hoboken City Council voted unanimously to move forward on the funding for an H-5 wet weather pump. Everyone congratulated each other on their visionary, unified stance to boldly come out against flooding…
…but that resolve soon wavered.
In a subsequent meeting, the Hoboken City Council failed to secure the 6 votes needed to pass the funding for the pump—a pump with a capacity of 40 million gallons per day featuring a built-in emergency generator, that would alleviate flooding in western Hoboken, including the area around ShopRite. The pump was to be financed by an $11.9 million low-interest loan from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, which includes 19% principal forgiveness. The vote came up 5-2, with five for the pump and two against the pump, with two councilpersons seemingly unable to attend the meeting.
The administration called for a special meeting of the Hoboken City Council to allow all members of the Council to vote, and the pump eventually passed due to significant public outcry. Nevertheless it has yet to be installed.
Meanwhile the City receives international accolades on its flood preparedness, and we’re still flooding.
Thus ends the “objective” part of this article… Now let’s take a step back and assess the situation:
It’s no secret that whomever solves Hoboken’s flooding problems will secure a significant political victory. But as factions wrangle over who gets to put that feather in their cap, the fight is being won in theory and lost in the streets.
Yes—a number of factors contributed to Sunday’s Hoboken Flood event. While we can’t control the amount of water that falls from the sky, we CAN control other factors that will alleviate the impact that water has on our friends and neighbors. For individuals to be so obtuse that they can’t see the immediate need for a solution is almost as distressing as the floods (plural) themselves. For community leaders to continue collecting plaques about coming up with mere plans while others gleefully gloat over the fact that flooding continues is absolutely despicable.
Quite frankly it’s insulting—because this is a problem that can be solved, should be solved and should have been solved already.
Now is as good a time as any to point out that the Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins June 1st—which is today.