Flood waters from the Whippany and Passaic Rivers and their tributaries have caused humanitarian and economic losses to the thousands of inhabitants who either live or operate businesses in Hanover, East Hanover, Parsippany, Florham Park, Morris Plains and Morristown. Stormwater runoff from countless storms, including a lack of maintenance in keeping the river channels free and clear of debris reached a critical point last year when Hanover Township Mayor Thomas “Ace” Gallagher, Florham Park Mayor Mark Taylor and East Hanover Township Mayor Joseph Pannullo decided that it was time to join forces and take action. On February 18, 2022, the Mayors and their professional engineers met with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill to enlist her support in developing a plan including the need for federal funds.
The outgrowth of the meeting was the creation of the Whippany and Passaic Rivers Flood Mitigation Task Force. Working with the staff of Congresswoman Sherrill, the Task Force submitted a $1.5 million dollar Fiscal Year 2023 Community Project grant under the sponsorship of Ms. Sherrill. In December, 2022, the Task Force was informed that the funding application was included in the Federal Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Spending Bill approved by the United States Congress.
The allocation of these funds will be used for the first phase of a multi-year, multi-phase project in the de-snagging of the Whippany River with the removal of dangerous obstructions and debris. The stabilization of streambanks, sediment removal and re-establishing and replanting vegetation along the streambanks to minimize erosion and improve the flow of stormwater will require significant additional grant funds in the coming years.
At a meeting on January 25, 2023, the Mayors of the Townships of Hanover, East Hanover and Parsippany and the Boroughs of Florham Park and Morris Plains agreed to enter into a Shared Services Agreement in order to move the project further Without delay. The Township of Hanover will serve as the Lead Agency. The Town of Morristown will soon join this collaborative undertaking. In addition, the County of Morris is also working with the Task Force with County Commissioner Stephen Shaw attending meetings and serving as liaison.
On February 15, 2023, the Task Force again met with Congresswoman Sherrill to thank her for “shepherding” the grant and to strategize in moving the project forward. Mayor Thomas “Ace” Gallagher noted that….”while we are in a good place in taking the first step, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us in the coming years.” Mayor Gallagher pointed out that the Task Force is a regional partnership looking to remediate a long-standing problem that seriously jeopardizes the health, safety and welfare of those towns along the Whippany and Passaic Rivers. “Government has to be about collaborating and solving problems together in order to improve the quality of life for our residents.
In summing up the meeting, Gallagher asserted that….”In cooperation with Congresswoman Sherrill’s office, we are working extremely hard to mitigate flooding in our area. This approach can serve as a good model or template for municipalities to follow in resolving other common, regional issues.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Congresswoman Sherrill and all the participating Mayors posed for a photograph with an imitation poster board check in the amount of $1.5 million dollars representing the actual award.
Pictured, from left to right are as follows: Kellie Doucette, District 11 Director for Congresswoman Sherrill, Mayor Jason Karr of Morris Plains, Mayor James Barberio of Parsippany, Mayor Mark Taylor of Florham Park, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, Mayor Joseph Pannullo of East Hanover, Mayor Thomas “Ace” Gallagher of Hanover, Mayor Tim Dougherty of Morristown, County Commissioner Stephen Shaw and Hanover Committeeman John Ferramosca.