Hoboken City Council Should Vote Unanimously to Fund Uptown Flood Pump

Update (February 23): The Hoboken City Council voted 7-2 to approve a resolution to issue bonds for the uptown flood pump. Council Members Bhalla, Castellano, Cunningham, Doyle, Giattino, Mello, and Occhipinti voted in favor; Council Members Mason and Russo voted against. The 7-2 margin means the resolution achieved the two-thirds majority necessary to authorize the expenditure, which means the City can move forward with its application for the low-interest loan for the project.

In December, the Hoboken City Council unanimously approved moving forward with construction of a second flood pump in uptown Hoboken. The project would be funded by a bond issuance, the proceeds of which would be used to pay back a low-interest loan provided by the state at a historically low 0.5-0.75% interest rate. In addition, 19% of the loan’s principal would be forgiven at closing using federal Hurricane Sandy recovery funds. The pump would be operated by the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA) under a 99-year lease from the City.

Last week, a second vote was held on a resolution to authorize and approve the issuance and sale of up to $11,950,000 in general obligation bonds for the project. A two-thirds majority (six votes) is required for the City Council to authorize an expenditure, but the resolution passed by only a 5-2 margin. Of the seven Council Members present (Council Members Occhipinti and Russo were absent), Council Members Bhalla, Cunningham, Doyle, Giattino, and Mello voted in favor, but Council Members Castellano and Mason voted against the resolution. In a statement released after the vote, City Council President Ravi Bhalla said:

Even if the resolution passes eventually, I hope residents do not forget that Mason and Castellano took a stand against providing a sensible flooding solution funded through a low interest loan. I don’t understand how these council members could in good conscience vote against a flooding solution that would improve the lives of so many residents.

Hoboken has an existing outfall pipe that runs along 11th Street and drains stormwater from throughout the northern part of the city into the Hudson River. Significant rain, especially at high tide, overwhelms the stormwater system and impedes drainage to the river. With nowhere else to go, the water backs up and floods streets thoughout uptown Hoboken, threatening homes, businesses, and public spaces, and imposing a significant financial burden in the form of expensive flood insurance.

The planned 11th Street wet weather pump would significantly reduce this flooding by keeping water flowing through the outfall pipes, preventing it from backing up into city streets. Because it would be installed underground along the existing outfall route, it would be nearly invisible except for some above-ground control vault access points. A similar wet weather pump system constructed in 2011 at 99 Observer Highway has already significantly reduced rainstorm-related street flooding in the southern portion of the city.

The product of a close-knit collaboration between CH2M HILL, the Authority, the City of Hoboken, and the New Jersey Transit Authority (NJTA), the Hoboken H1 Screening, Wet Weather Pump Station and Outfall Renewal was designed and constructed to eliminate the combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharge of S/F materials to the Hudson River and to provide southwest Hoboken with protective measures against wet weather street flooding. The capacity of the H1 Pump Station, including the rehabilitated twin 48” outfall pipelines was developed to provide relief from street flooding during a 5-year storm event coincident with a high tide. The Pump Station and twin outfalls structures are located beneath and adjacent to NJTA properties and include an electrical building, screening chamber, pump station, and the final outfalls; these elements were integrated into a compact design solution that demonstrates state-of-the-art civil engineering innovation and environmental compliance.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has called a special meeting Monday, February 23, at 7PM for a new vote on the bond issuance. This is a matter of the utmost importance for Hoboken, and the City Council should vote unanimously to approve it. If you believe uptown Hoboken should be equipped with the same state-of-the-art flood mitigation pump system that has significantly reduced flooding downtown, contact your Council Member and make your voice heard at the special meeting.

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