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Bergen gets first flood management coordinator, regional solutions promised

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County officials promised a more holistic approach to flood control that includes addressing how development in some towns affects their neighbors, as Executive Kathleen A. Donovan announced the appointment of former Oakland councilwoman Elizabeth Stagg as the county’s first flood management and control coordinator.

“Betsy” Stagg is a licensed civil engineer and a certified flood plain manager who has served on the Bergen County Flood Advisory Council.

She will work from the county’s emergency management offices in Mahwah and “develop a strategy that tackles short, medium, and long-term flooding issues,” according to County Administrator Ed Trawinski.

Some of the short-term issues will be the design and maintenance of culverts, the systematic de-snagging of stream and rivers, and maintenance of flood gates and berms, as well as mandatory reviews and upgrades of flood-prevention infrastructure, he said.

Intermediate objectives include working with municipalities to address zoning issues that create storm water runoff into streams and rivers instead of settling into the ground, Trawinski added.

“We have to be cognizant of the fact that flooding downstream is often caused by actions upstream,” he said. “Flooding is a shared concern. The actions of one community can have negative impact on other communities.”

Long-range issues for Stagg will include working with the county engineer, Office of Emergency Management and state agencies such as the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to address issues such as overdevelopment and smart growth, Trawinski said.

After Hurricane Sandy, Donovan realized that county officials “cannot sit around and wait for someone else to fix our flooding problems,” her chief of staff, Jeanne Baratta, said this afternoon.

“We have to begin addressing flooding issues through shared initiatives among all levels of government,” Baratta said, calling Stagg “a key lynchpin to helping the county muster the resources to protect our residents.”

Donovan added: “The past several years have shown how vulnerable many of our communities are to major storms. With Betsy on board, I believe the county will be better able to ensure that our local, county, state and federal resources are directed to the best flood prevention projects possible.”

In a statement, Stagg said: “I am very honored to be selected for this important position and excited about the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of thousands of people who are forced to live in constant fear of losing their homes and possessions to flooding.”

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