Flood Plan Failures
To the Editor:
I read with interest the article that dealt with flooding in Stafford Township (“Stafford Engineers Present Plans to Alleviate Flooding,” 9/26). To understand the flooding situation in the southwestern area of Ocean Acres one must look at the history of the area.
The mayor and township committee in the early 1960s approved some 6,600 building lots in Ocean Acres with no more regard than if it were a minor subdivision of two or three lots. When asked at a public hearing why they were approving the creation of thousands of sites without requiring the developer to install improvements such as road paving, storm sewers, public water, sanitary sewers, curbs and sidewalks, the mayor stated that no one would build a house out there. They were selling the lots for investment purposes. The developer was originally allowed to install mix-in-place roads throughout Ocean Acres, i.e. gravel roads with liquid tar spread over the gravel and mixed in.
When we took control of the township committee in 1973, one of the first things we did was to file a lawsuit against the developer of Ocean Acres, the Riker Delaware Corp., and its bonding company. In settlement of that suit, we forced them to pave the streets and install some concrete curbing, and we obtained title to two recreational sites: the beach area at Holiday Lake and 15 acres between Canal Street, Route 72 and Breakers Avenue, which includes the 7.5-acre unnamed drainage pond.
We then attempted to tackle the lack of storm drainage in what I believe was Section 10. We had a study done by then-Township Engineer Ralph Engle. Mr. Engle’s report showed that the effect of any drainage improvements would be limited by the size of the culvert under Route 72, through which the overflow from the Canal Street drainage lake drains. We met opposition from the Pinelands Commission based on the harm that might be caused to the 5- and 8-mile branch drainage area.
In 1978, New Jersey passed the Clean Water Act, which effectively stopped building in Ocean Acres and rendered the lack of proper storm drainage in Section 10 moot. Subsequently, the succeeding mayor and township council compounded the problem by installing sanitary sewers and city water in Ocean Acres at the ratepayers’ expense of some $60 million. This allowed the building of thousands more houses, gave the developers of the housing another free ride and brought back the flooding problem in full fruition.
A few years ago, the township acquired an individual lot on Forecastle Avenue, where it installed underground recharge pipes at substantial cost without any observable effect on flooding. Now it wants to spend another $2.3 million on another scheme to alleviate flooding in Section 10 – a drop in the bucket when compared with the $60 million spent by the township to give another generation of developers another free ride at our expense.
The roads on Mallard Island flood at least 10 to 15 times as often as any streets in Ocean Acres. The roads there flood with every exceptionally high tide caused by northeast offshore winds and the effects of global warming. Not only do the roads flood, but they stay flooded for weeks because the higher adjacent land prevents runoff from the streets, and there are no storm drains. The flooding problem could be substantially alleviated by raising the streets on Mallard Island by 12 inches, with 8-inch cross drains installed every 30 feet. This work could be done for far less than the $2.3 million proposed to be spent in Ocean Acres on top of the $60 million already spent there.
I have appeared at three council meetings in an attempt to discuss this problem. I got absolutely no reaction whatsoever. Perhaps they didn’t realize that Mallard Island is part of Stafford Township. I then sent them individual certified letters. Again, nothing.
The writer has resided in Stafford Township for 50 years.