A group of politicians and residents in border areas along New Jersey and New York are banning together to urge the formation of a bi-state committee that would work to address flooding issues along the Mahwah River and other waterways that border the two states.
On Wednesday, a united group of New York and New Jersey legislators, town officials and Rockland homeowners pushed for NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that would create a Rockland/Bergen Bi-State River Commission.
NJ Governor Chris Christie signed the companion New Jersey legislation in 2012.
The New York State Senate passed the measure last week following the State Assembly, which approved it in April. Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski said once the bill is delivered to the governor he has 10 days to act on it.
Those who spoke at the press conference in Lake Tappan this week stressed the need for a commission that would bring representatives of both states to work together in a collaborative and coordinated effort on flood mitigation and water supply plans.
“This is purely about coordination between two states,” said Zebrowski, adding the group addressing water issues needs a regional approach because of rivers and reservoirs that run through both states.
NY Senator David Carlucci said a unified approach would be most effective because water does not know boundaries and does not know political boundaries.
The commission would have 12 voting members, six from New York and six from New Jersey with six non-voting members. The commission members, who would not be paid, would be appointed by the their respective state’s leadership. The six non-voting members would include the Bergen and Rockland County executives, state transportation commissioners, one representative each from United Water and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Several Bergen County legislators voiced their support for the commission at the meeting.
“We need to work together to find ways we can get some preventive measures,” Bergen County Assemblywoman Connie Wagner said.
Bergen County Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi echoed that idea and added New Jersey municipalities can not do anything further to prevent flooding unless they are working in collaboration with their New York neighbors.
At a Mahwah township council meeting Thursday night, Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet expressed his support for the idea, and gratitude to Schipesi for standing behind the bill.
In addition to the Rockland County meeting, Mahwah government, Office of Emergency Management, and fire officials have been meeting with officials from Suffern to discuss local efforts that could be put in place to mitigate smaller flooding issues, Laforet said.
“We are making progress,” He said Thursday. “Flooding is not off of our minds.”
Mahwah Patch editor Jessica Mazzola contributed to this report.