After more than a decade of sparring with the state’s Pinelands Commission and the New Jersey Division of Environmental Protection (DEP), Stafford Township’s engineers presented a plan at Tuesday’s council meeting that could finally alleviate the flooding caused by heavy rainfall in the Neptune Drive area of Ocean Acres.
The Neptune proposal, according to Trevor J. Taylor, of CME Associates, calls for the construction of a new retention basin and spillway on the south side of Route 72 across from the current one on Neptune Drive.
Taylor also discussed preliminary proposals to expand the basin along Forecastle Drive. Similar plans have earlier been rejected by the DEP, but the expansion of the basin using township-owned property is something that should still be considered, he added.
The new proposed Neptune basin will be nearly twice the size of the current 4.5 acre one, and the two will be connected by a series of culverts underneath Route 72, said Taylor.
The estimated cost of the project is $2.3M, which could be funded through a state loan program. The program would forgive half of the loan upon completion of the project, charge zero percent interest on the next 25% and fund the final 25% at the prevailing market interest rate, said Taylor.
“The two basins should be able to handle the run off a 100-year-storm,” said Taylor. A 100-year storm as defined by the NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service) for the area is 9.2 inches in a 24 hour period.
“We are seeing climate changes that are producing more and more major storms,” said Taylor. It was reported that the storm that flooded the area this summer produced more than 8 inches of rain in less than 10 hours.
The current basin, which pipes the water under Route 72 into township property in the Pinelands, can not handle that much water, said Mayor John Spodofora. “Think of it like a funnel. When too much water comes in too fast, it is going to bubble back through the storm drains or overflow the basin,” he added.
Additional culverts will also be constructed in the neighborhood, especially near Leeward Avenue, where residents complain of flooding before the water even reaches the current basin, said the mayor.
The new basin would be constructed on township-owned property in the Pinelands and there are several conditions that need to be met to acquire the necessary permits from the commission and DEP, said Taylor. But a preliminary meeting with the Pinelands Commission had found them looking "favorably" at the concept, said Township Administrator James Moran.
The township is going to address the Commission’s inital concerns and are scheduled to meet with them again next month, he added.
The new culverts will be built near the top of the current basin and will be able to channel water out of the residential area across the highway before it overflows.
This system should meet the DEP’s CFS requirements, said Taylor. CFS stands for Cubic Feet Per Second and applies to the rate that storm water can be discharged into a protected area.
The DEP also now recognizes “extenuating circumstances” when it comes to protecting people and property versus environmental concerns, said the mayor.
“This is the right thing to do and now is the right time,” said Spodofaora, who added the permitting process to begin construction is estimated to take one year.