HomeDelran News'I feel like I'm standing alone on an island'

‘I feel like I’m standing alone on an island’

Delran residents seek answers to flood problems at town hall

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
“I am displaced indefinitely,” said Alden Avenue resident Jodi Klein, who has lived in Delran for 25 years.

Hundreds of concerned residents packed the Delran Township council chambers on Jan. 31 for a town hall regarding continuous flooding during high tides and rainstorms in the Riverside Park neighborhood.

But township officials offered little hope of mitigating the flooding anytime soon because of the glacial pace of work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on any new project, such as rebuilding the berm along River Drive.

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“I feel like I am standing alone on an island. I have lived here for 25 years,” said Alden Avenue resident Jodi Klein at the town hall. “I am displaced indefinitely.”

Klein lost two vehicles and had her house condemned during heavy rains on Jan. 9 and 10. She recounted how she and her son had to be water rescued, then found an orange stiker on their door the next morning.

“You don’t understand,” Klein told council. “You’re not the three families who have been displaced for the last three weeks. The end of Stewart Avenue and Alden Avenue have been flooded time and time again. Somebody should have warned us. There was no communication. Maybe I wouldn’t have lost two vehicles.”

Klein added that insurance companies were slow in responding.

“I waited 10 days for a call back while sitting in a hotel,” she recalled.

Tiffany Otis, another Alden Avenue resident, explained that hers was the second family on the block displaced. Turning toward town hall attendees, she asked, “Was anyone notified that there could be a major flood?”

No one answered.

Vickie Peppers of Chester Avenue came to the microphone.

“I have to give this woman a big hug,” she noted as she embraced Klein. “The people here are not just neighbors, they are family.”

Peppers then asked Council members and township officials if residents should reach out to their Congressional representatives to get the Army Corps of Engineers moving faster. Council President Tyler Burrell said the corps is currently doing an erosion feasibility study and that Delran is in contact with the agency.

But, he added of the corps, “They move at a glacial pace.”

A Stewart Avenue resident said council should be hounding the Army Corps and calling them every day. Township Engineer Ed D’Armiento said Delran’s first contact with the agency was in 2012. He also had troubling news, pointing out that since 1900, there has been a 1-foot rise in sea levels in the tidal Delaware River, which is just a few hundred yards upstream from the Rancocas Creek at River Drive, where the two bodies of water meet.

A study showed that there will be a 1.4-foot additional rise in sea levels by 2050, and by 2100, another 3.3 feet.

Burrell presented an ominous slide show, pointing out that at one time, a pump station was considered.

“That plan will not work now with the sea level rising,” he acknowledged.

D’Armiento said there is a 1% chance yearly of a 100-year, level 10 catastrophic event. A map showed that the Riverside Park neighborhood would be devastated by that.

The first major sign of trouble was when Superstorm Sandy flooded the area in 2012. This year, it started raining on Jan. 9 and continued into the next day, and by high tide that afternoon, raging water from Rancocas Creek was pouring into the streets.

“There was 20 inches of water in my basement and backyard, and the Delran fire department spent all night pumping out water for me and my neighbors,” recounted Bob Gilbert, who also lives on Stewart Avenue.

“All of us on this street have been getting flooded regularly since Superstorm Sandy …” he explained. “This is worse than Sandy.”

Gilbert was pointing out that the waters flowed all the way from the Rancocas Creek; past Friendship Park; and up to Burge Street, which is three blocks inland toward the L&M Bakery.

“There is no 100% solution to mitigate flooding,” noted Burrell, who said he hopes that after the Army Corps completes its erosion study, the berm can be fortified and raised along the streambank.

He encouraged people who were thinking of selling their homes to talk to the Blue Acres representatives at the table in the lobby. The program is part of the Office of Climate Resilience, under the auspices of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The Blue Acres flier stated: “When a homeowner sells their property to the state of New Jersey, structures are demolished and the land become permanent open space, creating opportunities for enhanced flood storage, passive recreation activities and ecological restoration.

“Local governments and neighbors are encouraged to help with post-buyout land use visioning to ensure the future open space serves several community benefits.”

“We are not going to sugarcoat this,” Mayor Gary Catrambone said at the town hall’s beginning. “This is your home and we know you’re frustrated.”

Riverside Park residents left the town hall knowing more about the flooding issues, but the information left them more concerned about the future of their neighborhood.

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