By Ann Piccirillo
Oakland Councilwoman Elizabeth (Betsy) Stagg has been appointed the county’s first flood management and control coordinator, County Executive Kathleen Donovan announced Thursday.
Stagg is a licensed civil engineer and a certified flood plain manager who has served on the Bergen County Flood Advisory Council.
“As part of my administration’s efforts to take a more aggressive and proactive approach to flooding issues, we need someone of Betsy’s caliber to help the county undertake initiatives that will minimize the impact of flooding on our residents,” Donovan said.
Oakland has been hit hard by flooding in recent storms, and Stagg has been involved in local flood policy as the council's liaison to the flood commission.
“The past several years have shown how vulnerable many of our communities are to major storms," Donavan said. "With Betsy on board, I believe the county will be better able to ensure that our local, county, state and federal resources are directed to the best flood prevention projects possible,” added Donovan.
According to County Administrator Ed Trawinski, Stagg will work from the county’s emergency management offices in Mahwah and develop a strategy that tackles short, medium, and long-term flooding issues.
Some of the short term issues will be the design and maintenance of culverts, the systematic de-snagging of stream and rivers, and maintenance of flood gates and berms, as well as mandatory reviews and upgrades of flood prevention infrastructure.
Trawinski said medium term objectives will be to work with municipalities to address zoning issues dealing with the proliferation of impervious surfaces that cause storm water to run off into streams and rivers, rather than settling into the ground.
“We have to be cognizant of the fact that flooding downstream is often caused by actions upstream,” said Trawinski. “Flooding is a shared concern. The actions of one community can have negative impact on other communities.”
Long range issues for Stagg will include working with the county engineer, Office of Emergency Management and state agencies such as the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission to address issues such as overdevelopment and smart growth.
“I am very honored to be selected for this
important position and excited about the opportunity to make an impact
on the lives of thousands of people who are forced to live in constant
fear of losing their homes and possessions to flooding,” said Stagg.
Donovan's Chief of Staff, Jeanne Baratta, said, "After Superstorm Sandy, Donovan recognized that the county cannot sit around and wait for someone else to fix our flooding problems.”
“We have to begin addressing flooding issues through
shared initiatives among all levels of government. Betsy Stagg will be a
key lynchpin to helping the county muster the resources to protect our
residents,” Baratta said.