Watchdogs of the Watershed 1/27/2013

The Watchdogs of the Watersheds weigh in on the furor over flooding on Fairfax Drive and in other parts of the township

     I have been reading the comments posted to the Patch article about the flooding along Fairfax Drive with interest, even posted a couple of comments myself, but feel the need to address some of the posts more in depth. Plus, when you have a blog, you get to put in your two cents worth on whatever you want, so here we go...
     After the 2011 election, I vowed to attend as many township meetings as I possibly could, to make sure that those elected would know that someone was paying attention and keeping track of what they were doing. An occasional meeting was missed here and there, but I managed to get to alot of them, and have something to say at every one I attend. One of the topics I have brought up on more than one occasion is flooding, and the township's stormwater management. I was somewhat taken aback by the hook line "One Cinnaminson woman took to the township committee meeting..." - like this was a new or unique event. (I don't mean to take anything away from Shannon! I'm thrilled that she was there, and is taking a pro-active position!) Also, another Fairfax Drive resident was there with her - it's not like she was facing the dragon alone in an unprecedented act of heroism. Shannon - you can count on me to be there with you every step of the way, and I will do anything and everything to help you.
     Before I go on to address some of the actual comments, I must once again remind people to please try to be civil to one another. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and to post it, but can't we do it without the nastiness and rudeness? And if you are going to be so hostile and offensive, at least have the courage to use your real name instead of hiding behind ridiculous aliases. You remind of elementary school bullies.
     It has been said that the homeowners are at fault for buying homes where they did. I must object: my house next to the Pompeston Creek was built in 1889, my family has been here for 6 generations. There was never any problem with flooding until the late 50s when the former farm land upstream was developed - including the Fountain Farms development, Rolling Greens, the industrial park and Walmart shopping center, the Mainline shopping center, the shopping center that is now home to the raceway, the new development on Parry Road, the construction at the Greenbriar property, as well as all the construction in Moorestown. The increase in flooding along the Pennsauken Creek has a similar history- the Shoppes at Cinnaminson are an obvious culprit, but the construction of Cinnamin Crossing, along with all of the development further upstream in Maple Shade and Moorestown, have all played a part in this nightmare. The people who bought property more recently than my family were acting on historical information (can't even really blame all of the realtors for non-disclosure) - in the past, the properties didn't flood - there wasn't documentation yet of the increasing occurrences of high water.
     Last year, I sent in OPRA requests for Cinnaminson's annual stormwater management reports for the past couple of years. These are required by the State of NJ's Stormwater Management Regulations. These are the laws that the township points to as the reason for the brush/leaf warnings and citations - the twp is only doing what the state says they have to do, so we musn't be upset with them. Does anyone remember the last time any politician - federal, state, local - ever stepped up and took responsibility for something that was handled badly or turned out to be a bad idea?
     People kept talking about how East Riverton is getting attention for their flood issues. First of all, it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease - I live in East Riverton, and have been whining about the flooding for quite some time. Unfortunately, the mayor has been talking about the Belleview section of town, not the East Riverton where I live. I am attaching a copy of the USGS map from 1966/1967 which shows the two neighborhoods, along with a close-up with a couple of landmarks tagged. The Belleview flooding is coming from the unnamed stream that comes through the Taylor Wildlife Preserve, the Delaware River and from the dramatic increase in impervious ground cover due to the construction of Cinnaminson Harbor. (Do you think the people who live in Cinnaminson Harbor were told that they are living on "made land"? The whole property consists of settled dredge spoils from the deepening of the river years ago- along with all of the toxins and garbage scraped up from the bottom when they dredged.) There has never been any discussion of dealing with or even investigating the flooding along the Pompeston Creek. And why is that the part of town going to be dealt with? As they say in many situations, follow the money... The director of economic development and the mayor have said that with the Rt.130 redevelopment nearly complete, they are looking to obtain similar funding for the revitalization of the industrial zone at the northern end of the township - the former Hoeganaes site as well as the area surrounding Industrial Highway near the light rail tracks. It just makes sense that you won't attract new business and the accompanying tax dollars if the neighborhood has flooding issues. (And I'm sure that it is a complete and total coincidence that the mayor has a business located in the Belleview section that would benefit from the flood issues there being addressed.)
     Sadly, at this point, there really isn't a lot to be done for those of us who are treading water. If we were to point the blame where it belongs, we have to take a look at the history of the township's master plan. I am attaching copies of a couple of pages from "The Cinnaminson Waterfront Today and Yesterday" by Joseph H. Taylor, written in 1987, which show that we once had a township committee and a planning board that understood the need for open space and cared more about preserving the environment than about building as much as possible on every inch of land. I am making arrangements to look at the current master plan for the township this week - it will be interesting to see the difference between the 1983/1988 plans and the most recent. With any luck, I should be able to figure out just when exactly the attitude of our local government changed so drastically, and perhaps we'll discover just who sold out the residents along the Pennsauken and Pompeston Creeks.
     For anyone who may be interested, I can make copies of the Taylor document - just let me know if you want one. The Watchdogs will also be hosting a showing of "Glimpses of Cinnaminson, Palmyra and Riverton" - a compilation of a local doctor's home movies from the 1920s and 1930s. Anyone who has old photos or documents is encouraged to contact me - an evening of reminiscing could be fun, maybe even enlightening, for more recent residents.
     Membership in the Watchdogs is free to anyone who wants to join. Watch for a story from Catherine Laughlin about the group in the near future.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

charlie mothershed January 30, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Ruth,I think Ross was just trying to inject a bit of levity into this issue,at least l hope so.The only party that would be so agianst the importance of the watershed would be someone who is vested in gains if it were to drain . Ross you don't stand to make money on destroying Gods work do you .
Skitch January 31, 2013 at 05:05 AM
Then please explain to me that when the township buys open space property with grants such as the Cinnaminson Home all one has to do is petition the state to have the property removed from the open space inventory so that building on the property can be accomplished. How is this environmentally friendly when it is well known that this property alone will affect so many residents and the community in a negative way. When the residents of the community very loudly made our position to the committee very clear about our major concerns with the flooding issues, the sewerage issues the committee politely listened but turned a deaf ear and went along with their original plan anyway because it benefited them but not the residents of the surrounding neighborhood that were already there. You ARE going to have problems with flooding and sewerage when this building goes up. Since I am on record many times with my current sewerage/flooding problems, you will be buying my house when the flooding and sewerage becomes an issue. You will not be able to tell me or the other residents that it's not your problem when it clearly will be. Just saying that i don't see this committee as very environmentally friendly particularly in my neighborhood. I don't see the open space rules as environmentally friendly when all one has to do is express an interest in building on that land and poof the land can be taken off the inventory if the price is right and exchanged for another piece of property.
Committeeman Anthony Minniti January 31, 2013 at 09:52 AM
"Skitch", I would be happy to discuss all these issues but will not do so on a blog. Please come to the next (or any) Township Committee meeting and during public comment, provide you name and address for the record, and I will go through each question you pose. Your questions and my responses will then become part of the public record. If you are unable to attend a meeting, feel free to contact me offline to discuss, however, the public will not have the benefit of our conversation. I look forward to hearing from you.
Skitch February 01, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Mr. Minnitti, been there and done that and it didn't make a bit of difference. Myself and all of my neighbors sat in on months and months worth of committee meetings, we all went on record with our concerns and it the end it meant nothing. Why waste my valuable time.
Bernadette Russell February 19, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Cindy..,,how can I too get involved with your environmental efforts? Thanks!


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