May 9, 2007
Flood follow-up - Editorial
THE headline is environmentalists will fix the leaky Meadowlands levee that has flooded businesses along the Hackensack River in Carlstadt. The bigger story is what happens next.
The business owners needed relief, since they are still dealing with problems from last month's storm and floods. The Meadowlands Conservation Trust agreed this week to fix the levee that had been torn open by the storm.
Even more important is the trust's decision to form a committee, including environmentalists and nearby property owners, to explore long-term solutions that will benefit both sides. Something has to be done to protect the businesses from future flooding and at the same time continue the restoration of the wetlands.
Much is at stake, and the storm inadvertently set things in motion. The flooding could be the jump-start of an ongoing revival of the Richard P. Kane Natural Area, hundreds of acres that used to be known as the Empire Tract. The Hackensack Riverkeeper and others envision the transformation of what has long been a bog choked with reeds into open wetlands teeming with wildlife, such as striped bass and osprey. A similar transformation has already taken place in the Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area, which the Hackensack Riverkeeper calls the "jewel of the Meadowlands."
Given the widely accepted prediction that global warming will result in more flooding in the Meadowlands, a solution must be found that protects businesses while keeping the marsh exposed to the river's tides. The possibilities include building a levee farther inland or exploring buyouts for the most flood-prone properties along the river.
It's promising that the Meadowlands Conservation Trust will explore the options alongside the affected property owners, who will have direct input and be able to voice their concerns.
At the same time, the future of the Meadowlands must remain a high priority. The process of undoing centuries of destruction, pollution and neglect must continue as the wetlands are restored. These wetlands are one of North Jersey's greatest natural resources, and their potential is just beginning to be tapped.