Yesterday was the first day of Spring and residents in our area were celebrating. Well, sort of.
The N.J. EPA’s Department of Water issued towns in our flood-prone area a $400,000 grant to desilt and desnag our rivers and brooks. This is no small feat, after Hurricane Sandy. The storm felled hundreds of trees into the hundreds of brooks, streams and rivers in our area. If we get a rainy spring, that water is going to back up and flood those areas.
But will the “Cavalry” arrive in time? There is no timeline yet as to when the repair work will be done and Beaver Brook is rising.
Beaver Brook isn’t actually a brook; it’s a ditch that farmers in the 18th and 19th Centuries dug to drain their lands so they could grow crops. In Lincoln Park, Beaver Brook was given the name for the animals that were once in abundance in this area. Lincoln Park’s neighbor, Pequannock Township gives it the more prosaic name of “East Ditch.”
No one can remember the last time Beaver Brook (or any of our other streams and rivers) was desilted and desnagged. One former resident, visiting her father and his business, said the last time was when she was a little girl. Probably right around the 1984 flood.
One of the EPA’s (and the DOT’s) concerns is the railroad trestle bridge over the Pompton River. Few people realize it’s even there. Unless you’ve taken the train out of Lincoln Park station or points west, you’ve never been over it or seen it.
I was working in Manhattan in 1984 – lower Midtown Manhattan. I remember the flood of 1984 washed out the bridge completely. I believe I had to take the bus and I recall my employers demanding to know why I was late (I was never late to work while there). They checked it out and found out I was telling the truth.
After the water subsided, I was back on the train. The tracks are built on a very high berm, at least 12 feet high and still the water went over the tracks. Looking out the train window, the houses wallowed in the receding waters. We passed an old, abandoned, rusted car that my friend and I used to climb into. We would pretend we were racing in the Indianapolis 500.
Her nearby home used to flood all the time. All the houses along our numerous streams and rivers used to be summer bungalows or cottages, including my grandparents’ house. They were converted to year-round use about the time the George Washington Bridge was finished in 1931. After the war, veterans were searching for affordable housing. They certainly couldn’t find it in New York’s Westchester County and Long Island was filling up, even though living there was only a little less expensive.
Instead, they headed for New Jersey. My mother’s brother moved here and when my grandfather retired from the Academy on Long Island, he and my grandmother moved here. When we got back from our adventure in California, my family moved here, too.
Luckily, Mom recognized flood plains when she saw them and we moved to the hilly section of northwest New Jersey. Still, my grandparents bought a house in an area where they used to vacation and in the 1968 flood, they had to get a row boat to get my grandmother out.
One big flood (1984) and a couple of hurricanes have gone by since the last time the authorities desilted and desnagged our streams and rivers. Let us hope, once the work is done, that it won’t take them another 46 years to clean up the rivers.