RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces $4.7 Million in New Federal Dollars Clawed Back to NJ to Invest in Flood Resistant Infrastructure

Protects Englewood, Emerson, Leonia, and Tenafly. Helps lower property taxes.

Mar 11, 2024
Press

Above: Gottheimer in Englewood announcing new federal investments in climate and flood resilient infrastructure

ENGLEWOOD, NJ — Today, March 11, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) joined with local leaders to announce multiple, new federal investments totaling more than $4.7 million clawed back from Washington. These investments will help build climate resilient infrastructure to prevent flooding and avoid its disastrous effects in Englewood, Emerson, Leonia, and Tenafly. These new investments were signed into law just two days ago, on Saturday.

The more federal tax dollars clawed back to Northern New Jersey, the less pressure on town budgets and taxpayers.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Englewood Stormwater Runoff and Flooding Prevention

  • Problem: Englewood sits at the bottom of a large hill and during serious storms, as water flows downhill, it can easily collect and overflow the system. Stormwater runoff regularly floods the city and the ecosystems that exist in Overpeck Creek
  • Solution: A more than $1.4 million federal investment clawed back to address flooding and protect the community from the contaminants that can sneak their way into the very creek next to us.
    • The new infrastructure will help stabilize the bank of the creeks moving forward, prevent any further erosion, and maintain the amount of water that can flow safely through Overpeck Creek. The borough will also install detention basins at two nearby properties. These new basins will collect contaminants in water and prevent them from spreading further into the town and those who live around the creek. These pollutants have disproportionately impacted historically underserved communities.

Emerson Drainage Overflow 

  • Problem: Dorchester Road, Vivian Avenue, and side streets suffer from flooding at the intersections. These streets house more than 50 residents and are located close to a high school, middle school, and several recreational fields. With the continual increase of severe weather affecting Northern New Jersey, the Borough is desperately in need of sufficient flooding mitigation.
  • Solution: More than $959,000 to install additional drainage infrastructure and realign piping.

Leonia Sewer Project Expansion

  • Problem: Leonia has a sanitary system that is over 100 years. Over time, the sewer has developed cracks, joints, or other defects in the pipes allowing more ground water to seep in. And, when floods cause large amounts of rainwater to enter the sewer system through manholes, roof downspouts, or other direct connections, it has caused overflows, backups, and property damage across the borough. 
  • Solution: More than $700,000 to invest in a sewer system infiltration inflow rehabilitation project
    • The will involve pipe lining, manhole rehabilitation, and pipe replacement of sections of the Borough sanitary sewer system that have been determined to have high infiltration inflow rates.

Tenafly Brook Clearing

  • Problem: During Hurricane Ida, and in storms before and after, the decades upon decades of accumulation of brush, natural plant growth, fallen trees, and stumps have wreaked havoc on the clear passage of water through two of the town’s brooks. These brooks, Tenakill and Overpeck, used to play a vital role in flood mitigation — now, they serve the exact opposite purpose.
    • High-intensity storms drop enormous amounts of water in short periods of time, easily causing these clogged brooks to overflow on a regular basis. This situation has resulted in millions of dollars of damage to the community. In fact, one recent storm alone shut down a bridge and flooded a nearby elementary school, costing taxpayers three million dollars. Hundreds of families have spent untold millions on repairs and renovations of their homes and businesses, and million more on automobiles. 
  • Solution: A new $1.6 million dollar federal investment to help clear up these two vital waterways, helping to mitigate the impacts of these storms.  

“In Jersey, floods overflow our rivers, brooks, and streams, backup our sewer systems, and leave behind a massive wake of danger and damage to our homes, streets, municipal buildings, and small businesses, and end up costing our taxpayers a fortune in cleanup. We’ve even seen bridges collapse, roads cave, cars destroyed, homes gutted, and families left without a home,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. “It’s clear that we have to do more than just respond after a flood, and deal with the damage. The investments I’m announcing today set us on the path to take preemptive and proactive action to ensure our cities and towns are prepared to prevent the worst of the damage before it even occurs. Our flood-prone communities simply can’t continue to live under the constant threat of dangers that will come with the next major storm and the continued effects of climate change.”

“With the money that is now being committed to us, we can now hire more people and deal with other challenges that we have in our city,” said Englewood Mayor Wildes. “You can imagine the visual that we had in our city of cars that, when the waters receded, were inverted on top of one another.”

“We have these extraordinary rain events that cost extraordinary amounts of money to fix. If we spend our tax money on our extraordinary events, that means we have less money for the police department, for the fire department, for the senior center, and for public works,” said Tenafly Mayor Zinna. “With this federal grant money that has been clawed back from Washington, that means we’re able to protect our police and fire programs, we’re able to provide the services to our residents while we dredge and clean our streams.”

“On behalf of all the taxpayers in Leonia, I want to thank Congressman Gottheimer for his leadership and advocacy on our behalf. Leonia, like so many other municipalities in this area has a sewer system that was put in over 100 years ago… every single year that goes by there are more leaks, cracks, and breaks. This past year, our cost of sewer processing is $1 million a year, if we just get a ten percent reduction, that’s $100,000 a year back into the pockets of Leonia taxpayers,” said Leonia Mayor Ziegler. “None of this happens unless you have an effective advocate in Washington on behalf of municipalities in New Jersey, so thank you Congressman.”

“The small borough of Emerson is very grateful to the Congressman and everyone who made this possible today in order to claw back the money from our federal government. This is going to fix our hundred year old infrastructure in a section of town that is vitally important to over 100 residents. For that, we are very grateful,” said Emerson Mayor DiPaola. 

Gottheimer was joined by Englewood Mayor Wildes, Englewood City Manager Robert Hoffman, Englewood Councilwoman Wisotsky, Englewood Councilman Cobb, Tenafly Mayor Zinna, Leonia Mayor Ziegler,Emerson Mayor DiPaola, Englewood Police Chief Thomas Greeley, and Englewood Fire Chief Kevin Easton.

Below: Gottheimer in Englewood announcing new federal investments in climate and flood resilient infrastructure.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I’m here today with three outstanding North Jersey mayors and an outstanding council member to announce new federal investments — totaling more than $3.7 million dollars — that we’ve clawed from Washington back to Jersey to help fight the surge and effects of flooding we’ve seen in recent years, including as recently as this past weekend. 

Towns across Jersey saw two, or in Fair Lawn’s case, nearly three, inches of rain in a single day. Intense rainfall triggered flash flooding along the Peckman River in Passaic. 

These flash floods overflow our rivers, brooks, and streams, backup our sewer systems, and leave behind a massive wake of danger and damage to our homes, streets, municipal buildings, and small businesses, and end up costing our taxpayers a fortune in cleanup. We’ve seen bridges collapse, roads cave, cars destroyed, homes gutted, and families left without a home. 

These floods can impact water quality, cause chemical contaminations, and sewage infiltration. And, in some cases, families have lost loved ones — drowning in cars or sucked into sewers or rivers. 

The three new federal investments I’m announcing today — that are a part of legislation I helped pass last week and was signed into law just on Saturday — will help Englewood control stormwater runoff and limit the spread of pollutants … will help Leonia stop sewer system infiltration that causes overflows, backups, and property damage … will help Emerson with drainage improvement… and will help Tenafly clear waterways and stop these storms from causing millions of dollars in damage. This is the definition of climate resiliency. 

In most cases, our towns and cities simply can’t afford to make significant investments like these on their own. It would cost their communities an absolute fortune, either in new taxes or cuts to other key items in their budget. These are expensive enough, and budgets are tight. But the problem has persisted.  

Living in Jersey, whether it was Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Ida, or the dozens of smaller storms that are dumping more and more rain on us every year, we know just how bad flooding can be. In fact, flooding is New Jersey’s most common natural disaster.  

Just yesterday, I spoke to a fire chief who said that his department’s number one response is now to a flooding crisis, not a fire. 

We’re just eleven days into March, and some towns in New Jersey have already experienced an entire month’s worth of rain. This January, we saw extreme rain across New Jersey — leading the Governor to issue a state of emergency for every single county, all twenty-one, across the Garden State.

In Northern Jersey alone, in my District, nearly 100,000 homes have a more than 80 percent chance of flood damage over the next 30 years. The dangers from flooding don’t just go away after a storm is over and water levels recede. Flooding can cause garbage, sewage, and other contaminants to spread into our towns.

It’s clear that we have to do more than just respond after a flood, and deal with the damage. We have to take preemptive and proactive action to ensure our cities and towns are prepared to prevent the worst of the damage before it even occurs. Our flood-prone communities simply can’t continue to live under the constant threat of dangers that will come with the next major storm.

Our announcement today – and these new federal dollars we’ve clawed back to Jersey — will help address these critical issues in three North Jersey towns. 

To start, I’m proud to announce that, by working with Englewood’s Mayor Wildes, City Manager Robert Hoffman, and Councilwoman Wisotsky and the entire council, we’ve officially clawed back more than $1.4 million dollars from Washington to Englewood alone. These federal investments will help fund a vital stormwater flood mitigation project.

After Hurricane Ida, if you remember, Englewood got crushed in a storm – it affected their senior center and downtown. Englewood sits at the bottom of a large hill and during serious storms, as water flows downhill, it can easily collect and overflow the system — resulting in massive flooding. 

But this new federal investment will help address that and protect the community from the contaminants that can sneak their way into the very creek next to us. 

It will help stabilize the bank of the creeks moving forward, prevent any further erosion, and maintain the amount of water that can flow safely through Overpeck Creek. The borough will also install detention basins at two nearby properties. These new basins will collect contaminants in water and prevent them from spreading further into the town and those who live around the creek. These pollutants have disproportionately impacted historically underserved communities.. 

Next, I’m excited to announce a new, $720,000 federal investment to help Leonia stop sewer system infiltration and inflow. It may not be pretty, but these new federal dollars are key to revitalizing the more than hundred-year-old sewer system in Leonia that simply isn’t up to the challenge of modern storms and use. 

Over time, the sewer has developed cracks, joints, or other defects in the pipes allowing more ground water to seep in. And, when floods cause large amounts of rainwater to enter the sewer system through manholes, roof downspouts, or other direct connections, it has caused overflows, backups, and property damage across the borough. 

Contamination leaks like this can spread into our waters and cause serious, long-term water quality problems.  The good news, with this new investment, the borough will strengthen key sections of the sewer with pipe lining and replace parts beyond repair — helping protect the towns from flood-induced sewage overflow and water contamination for years to come. 

In Emerson, drainage issues have led to massive flooding causing widespread damage to cars and homes. This new $959,752 grant we clawed back last week will help improve the drainage system to deal with the huge influx of water on Dorchester Road, Vivian Avenue, and various side streets.

Lastly, I’m proud to announce a new $1.6 million dollar federal investment for Tenafly. Tenafly has experienced some of the worst flooding. 

During Hurricane Ida, and in storms before and after, the decades upon decades of accumulation of brush, natural plant growth, fallen trees, and stumps have wreaked havoc on the clear passage of water through two of the town’s brooks. These brooks, Tenakill and Overpeck, used to play a vital role in flood mitigation — now, they serve the exact opposite purpose. 

High-intensity storms drop enormous amounts of water in short periods of time, easily causing these clogged brooks to overflow on a regular basis. This situation has resulted in millions of dollars of damage to the community. In fact, one recent storm alone shut down a bridge and flooded a nearby elementary school, costing taxpayers three million dollars. Hundreds of families have spent untold millions on repairs and renovations of their homes and businesses, and million more on automobiles. 

This new investment, however, will help clear up these two vital waterways, helping to mitigate the impacts of these storms.  

The $3.7 million we are announcing today, to help Tenafly, Leonia, Emerson, and Englewood, builds on the work I’ve done to help make our communities more resilient to massive changes in our climate, including these new intense storms like we saw this weekend. 

It’s why I fought so hard to help write, negotiate, and pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill in 2021, which includes nearly $500 million in investments in Jersey to beef up our climate resiliency to deal with the flooding, fires, and storms — resources that are clearly needed here in North Jersey. It’s why I’ve fought to ensure that FEMA and the Army Corps have what they need to help our towns, families, and small businesses after a crisis. And why I’ve been such a big advocate of the National Flood Insurance Program, including reforming it, so we have better mapping of flood zones and faster payments of claims. 

In the end, it’s about communities and families, our first responders and small businesses, and ensuring that everyone is safe and protected in the face of what’s becoming the new norm in nearly every town and city I represent – not to mention our entire state.  This new legislation and federal investment we announced today is a big win for North Jersey – and it represents a significant investment we’ve clawed back from Washington for our families, for local projects. 

There isn’t anything partisan about it. The more of our federal tax dollars that we get back to North Jersey, the less our towns have to charge in local taxes — and I’m all about lowering taxes while always standing up for our Jersey Values and protecting our families. All of these towns will now be even more attractive locations for businesses and families to call home, which will make life better for our residents.  

By working together like we all are today, I know our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you. God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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