By Ann Piccirillo
The Bergen County Emergency Management Offices in Mahwah will be the headquarters for a new county-wide anti-flooding initiative, the county announced in a release Thursday.
County Executive Kathleen Donovan also announced that she has appointed Oakland Councilwoman Elizabeth (Betsy) Stagg to be the county’s first flood management and control coordinator.
Stagg is a licensed civil engineer and a certified flood plain manager who has served on the Bergen County Flood Advisory Council.
“As part of my administration’s efforts to take a more aggressive and proactive approach to flooding issues, we need someone of Betsy’s caliber to help the county undertake initiatives that will minimize the impact of flooding on our residents,” Donovan said.
She added, “The past several years have shown how vulnerable many of our communities are to major storms. With Betsy on board, I believe the county will be better able to ensure that our local, county, state and federal resources are directed to the best flood prevention projects possible.”
According to County Administrator Ed Trawinski, Stagg will work from the county’s emergency management offices in Mahwah to develop a strategy that tackles short, medium, and long-term flooding issues.
Some of the short-term issues will be the design and maintenance of culverts, the systematic de-snagging of streams and rivers, and maintenance of flood gates and berms, as well as mandatory reviews and upgrades of flood prevention infrastructure.
Trawinski said medium-term objectives will be to work with municipalities to address zoning issues dealing with the proliferation of impervious surfaces that cause storm water to run off into streams and rivers, rather than settling into the ground.
“We have to be cognizant of the fact that flooding downstream is often caused by actions upstream,” said Trawinski. “Flooding is a shared concern. The actions of one community can have negative impact on other communities.”
Long-range issues for Stagg will include working with the county engineer, Office of Emergency Management and state agencies such as the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to address issues such as overdevelopment and smart growth.
“I am very honored to be selected for this important position and excited about the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of thousands of people who are forced to live in constant fear of losing their homes and possessions to flooding,” said Stagg.
Donovan's Chief of Staff, Jeanne Baratta, said, "After Superstorm Sandy, Donovan recognized that the county cannot sit around and wait for someone else to fix our flooding problems.”
“We have to begin addressing flooding issues through shared initiatives among all levels of government. Betsy Stagg will be a key lynchpin to helping the county muster the resources to protect our residents,” Baratta said.