STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — The state Pinelands Commission and township officials are working to address flooding problems as a result of inadequate basins in areas of Ocean Acres.
The Neptune and Forecastle basins are no longer equipped to handle stormwater due to an increase in the volume of rain and runoff and their small size.
“The Neptune basin doesn’t have the volume. We want to go under Route 72 and build a larger basin on the south side of 72. It will be able to withstand a 100-year storm and will eliminate the flooding,” Mayor John Spodofora said.
Spodofora said the Forecastle basin needs to be enlarged, which is doable because the township owns land in the area around the basin.
The Forecastle basin is in the middle of a million-dollar dredging project that will provide greater volume within the basin to assist with flood control, Spodofora said.
Flooding in the area has been a problem for about 20 years, he said.
During a severe rainstorm, flooding on Forecastle Avenue can reach levels of 2 to 3 feet. The street is closed off by the township, and residents are unable to leave their homes.
On Sept. 5, a storm closed Forecastle Avenue. A township Public Works employee used a rake to try to clean drains to assist with the flooding.
Michael Donnelly has lived on Forecastle Avenue since 2000 and said there’s really no way to live with the flooding anymore. When it rains, he and his neighbors just have to hope for the best.
In 2006, a storm flooded the street the worst it ever has, Donnelly said Sunday. He stood in his driveway with his hand against his waist, saying that was how high the floodwaters had reached. Donnelly’s vehicle was totaled as a result.
“They’ve done some things to make it better, and it’s actually better than it was, but the flooding is still bad here,” he said.
The township is planning to submit a project idea for the two basins to the Pinelands Commission, Spodofora said.
“It will cost around $2 million per basin, and that will include engineering and construction. We will be meeting again with the Pinelands Commission this week, and we should hopefully be submitting a plan within the month,” he said.
Chuck Horner, director of permitting with the Pinelands Commission, said the township sent correspondence in December 2008 about installing a large outfall structure to discharge water from the Forecastle Lake and storm basin into a nearby undeveloped area.
The Pinelands Commission responded in January 2009 through a letter to the township engineer but never received a response.
Now, the discussion about the potential projects has reopened, officials said last week.
On July 31, Horner said he spoke to Township Councilman Stephen Fessler about the flooding concerns in the areas in question. Fessler showed Horner photos of streets that are severely flooded when it rains.
Earlier this month, the township and Pinelands Commission met to discuss the potential plans, Spodofora said.
“We understand there is a problem, and we would like to be part of the solution, but all the parties have to engage in it for it to move in the right direction,” Horner said.
The township will have to submit a plan for the project, and it will be reviewed by the commission to make sure it meets environmental regulations, he said.
Township Administrator Jim Moran said he realized there was a problem with flooding on Forecastle Avenue and Neptune Drive during his first month on the job in August 2009.
At that point, the township started an evaluation of the drainage system for the Neptune basin, Moran said. The evaluation determined the Neptune basin was undersized and would be able to handle only a two- to five-year storm, and the feeder structures under the road are inadequate in terms of their ability to convey the water, he said.
“Regardless of whether or not the pipes were working properly, the basin was still way too small to accept the amount of water being delivered to it,” he said.
In 2008, the township constructed underground storage at the Forecastle basin, but it was inadequate and there wasn’t enough land to make it any larger, he said.
The township’s preliminary proposal for the Pinelands Commission will include plans to enlarge the Forecastle basin and use five acres of land owned by the township to do so.
Plans to enlarge two different pipes under Route 72 would also address the problems with the two basins. The plans include building an additional bio-retention basin on the south side of Route 72 on about 10 acres owned by the township.
“It’s something the town had talked about for some time but, quite honestly, between the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) and the Pinelands Commission, no one was willing to allow the pipe size to be enlarged,” Spodofora said.
Now, the township is hoping to receive that approval.
Additionally, by installing culverts under Route 72, the area will be able to drain enough water from the existing Neptune basin to control flooding from a 100-year storm, Moran said.
When Ocean Acres was built 40 years ago, it was a 5,000-unit development, no stormwater regulations were in place and the basins weren’t constructed. Under today’s regulations, Ocean Acres would never have been able to be developed, Moran said.
Contact Donna Weaver:
Follow @DonnaKWeaver on Twitter