Bergen Grassroots takes Riverkeeper Tour of Hackensack River

Published On October 16, 2013 » 788 Views» By Charles Powers » Bergen County Rivers - protecting them and us
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Bergen Grassroots Flood Task Force tours the Hackensack River with Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan

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Left to right: BGR Chair Chuck Powers, Mayor Ann Subrizi (New Milford), Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan, Dee Ann Ipp (Teaneck), BGR Steering Committee Member James Kinloch, Kathleen Salvo (Hackensack), Jacklin Girgis (Lodi), Friends of the Hackensack River Greenway President Rich Karp, Mayor Mauro Raguseo (Little Ferry). BGR Steering Committee Member Norm Fisher took the picture and Mayor John Birkner (Westwood) was working in Little Ferry but waved from the shore. Several Task Force members, including County Flood Coordinator Betsy Stagg and its bipartisan County Freeholder members, were unable to take this trip.

Braving a cool windy afternoon – on the first anniversary weekend of Hurricane Sandy – nine Bergen Grassroots Flood Task Force members set out Saturday afternoon, October 26, to view the Lower Hackensack from Secaucus to the Court Street Bridge. Their purpose was to understand from the perspective of the River itself precisely how Sandy had worked its way up out of Newark Bay and to create major devastation to most of the municipalities whose riversides they passed. Their host and guide was the Hackensack Riverkeeper, Captain Bill Sheehan.

In the non-stop dialogue that continued throughout the nearly three-hour trip, the Task Force members gained a much clearer picture: 1) of the multiple roles in river health and protection that are played by the thousands of acres of meadowlands bordering the river; 2) of the complex of creeks that – rising and falling with the tides – snake their way to and from the river into the urban and residential interiors and regularly pose flooding threats; 3) of how Sandy’s 8-foot above normal tidal surge overtopped the urban riverside and, as water swirled around berm foundations never intended to handle such pressures, took down many of the protective berms.

As the trip wound its way back to the Secaucus dock, participant dialogue shifted focus to how the Task Focus will, now better informed,  be reviewing with experts, making recommendations and advocating the types of mitigation and river maintenance that can better protect this incredible system of nature and human enterprise against the next major storm event.

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