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Watchdogs of the Watersheds 12/24/12

"Apoca-flooding"?Anyone have an ark they aren't using? Watching the watershed from under water wasn't quite what we had in mind when we started our group...

Greetings everyone! I hope one and all are enjoying the holidays so far. We're still bailing water out of the basement after the unexpected flooding here along the Pompeston last week. Thanks to BPW and Ben Young for stopping by to make sure we hadn't drowned. And thanks to my neighbor, Barb, for calling when the water started creeping up to my front steps. We thought it was kind of funny that the while the NWS did issue a flood warning, it was posted after the high tides in Philadelphia and the Pompeston had already arrived.

As many of you know, I've lived next to the Pompeston for almost 30 years, and my family has been in this house since 1889, and there have been floods before. Our biggest problem has always been the very high water table that sends water through the basement walls - that's something we have learned to deal with, and the reason we all have sump pumps. The flooding that has occurred over the past few years is a horse of a different color. This past week saw the highest water level we have ever experienced, even worse than last year with Irene and the 13 inches of rain in 24 hours we had in 2005 when the dams burst in Medford.

When Mr. Young checked on us, he told my husband that there wasn't anything the township could do, there wasn't any way to pump the water away, and he was absolutely right. We understood that, and were grateful that he had taken the time to come by. What is unfortunate is that something could have been done, and should have been done years ago, by previous administrations. It is the misfortune of the current crop of officials that they have to deal with the consequences of the lack of foresight by their predecessors.

In a perfect world, rain and snow melt have the opportunity to sink into the ground, or infiltrate, and gradually flow to the creeks, streams and rivers. A watershed is defined as an area of land that drains into a particular waterway. Unfortunately, when you cover up the ground with asphalt and buildings, the water can't infiltrate. It now has to be managed (hence "stormwater management") - channeled and directed. So we have to build retention basins and drainage ditches and swales to direct the run-off to the creeks and streams. Instead of trickling through the groundwater, the run-off is now rushing into our waterways at an accelerated rate. The more impervious ground cover we put in, the volume and speed of the water going to the creek increases.

If we compare aerial photos of the Pompeston Creek over the past couple of decades, it is easy to see why the flooding has increased. The percentage of the township that has been developed has increased dramatically. The most obvious example of development that has adversely and directly affected the people who live near the creek is the huge parking lot built for the retail complex at Union Landing Road and Rt.130. Coincidentally, the water level in the lower Pompeston started to rise at about the same time the parking lot was put in.

Perhaps it is merely coincidence, but I would hope that rather than take that chance, more thought will go into what the consequences of development today will be on the Cinnaminson of the future. In the meantime, I wish everyone the happiest and healthiest of holidays, and all the best for the new year!

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.

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