Thursday, September 18, 2014

Removing Historic Piers?

In 2013, the Denville Town Council approved the funding of an in-depth engineering study into Denville's Rivers and Flooding issues.  This was the first of its kind ever performed specifically for Denville.  It was performed by our contracted engineering firm, Hatch Mott McDonald, an engineering firm with extensive experience in flood mitigation and river maintenance. The firm was originally hired by previous Mayor Ted Hussa's administration and was maintained by Mayor Andes administration.

(Before and After shot of the extensive back-up caused by the piers)

After the first phase on this study, which was unveiled at several public meetings, there were some sobering results.  Short of multi-million dollar programs that Denville alone could never afford, there were not many "home run" solutions to eliminate the risk of flooding throughout Denvile.  However, there were some small steps that could make a difference to minor flooding.  Flooding like we experienced from Hurricane Irene may not be preventable but smaller floods can be mitigated.

Some of The Study's Suggestions Were:

- Flap Valves (just completed)
- Desnagging (currently in process from a grant the town received)
- Continual Extensive Cleaning (performed twice a year for the last few years with nearly 200 volunteers each time)
- Storm Drain Repair & Cleaning (recently completed)
- Coordination of Area Lake's Dam Release (currently petitioned as a law via the State Legislature but also granted from Shongum Lake by a Court Order that Denville pursued)


All of these small improvements were attainable by Denville with smaller costs spread out over the course of several years.   This is probably the most attention to flood mitigation Denville has ever been given, most likely the most progress on flood mitigation in several years.  In addition, Denville completed the herculean task of buying out homes, in a devastated heavily flooded area, using FEMA funding.  We were the first town in the state to take advantage of this program.   The bought out properties will now be a park (and retention basis) along Riverside Drive, soon to open in a few weeks.

A small step that would help mitigate some of the flooding that occurs along Diamond Spring Road was to remove large structures that reside in the river by the La Cucina restaurant.  This would not prevent major floods like the one Hurricane Irene caused.   However, it will help the minor flooding that many may experience during less severe storms.  Whether you are flooded by 1 inch of water or 6, it is devastating to a homeowner.  I have helped clean the river along those piers, the buildup and backup along those piers is extreme.  Despite cleanup efforts, the buildup continues and impedes the river's flow.


The entire council approved the funding for all of these efforts including the pier removal.  However, the contingent was that the Administration needed to follow proper State environmental and historic processes.  The Administration did that and the State approved the project.  The Administration also agreed to provide historic markers in the area as well as keep one pier which was not a threat to the river.  The benefits of protecting our residents homes outweigh the historical significance of the unmaintained cement covered piers.  I am a huge supporter of historic preservation.  In fact, I produced and pitched a historical documentary series to the History Channel and other outlets many years ago.   I appreciate and value historic preservation.  However, we need to protect our residents first.

(Another shot of the build-up which impedes proper river flow)


1) Even someone without a historic scholastic background can observe the historical portion of the piers has already been heavily compromised.  Whatever original structure once existed appears to be solidly covered in more modern cement.  (One removed, perhaps the original structures can be uncovered?)

2) Those piers accumulate enormous snagging along the river and other than River Cleanup Volunteers, no other organization has volunteered to maintain the piers.  Not the Canal Society, Not any historical society, no one !

3) Removing 2 of those piers was determined to help flood mitigation by a professional engineering firm with extensive experience and credentials in flood mitigation.  I am offended by the few opponents to this program who have no credentials or expertise in this area.

4) The entire Town Council approved the funding of the removal of these piers provided the above conditions are met. 

5) During the removal, there will be state officials present including an archeologist monitoring the process and result.

6) Once removed, the remains of the piers are available for any interested party.  As well, the Administration has offered to work with any organization to recognize the historical area with markers or other informative displays.  Something that is greatly lacking in the area.


I am still in support of the removal of these piers, provided the process outlined is followed.
I also support and encourage any organization to utilize anything that can be salvaged from within the cement blocks for historic preservation.  Let's preserve history but also provide a safe environment for our neighbors.

(images courtesy of George Strothers)