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Township Residents Voice Their Concern Over Chronic Flooding of Harry's Brook

Matthew Hersh

Residents of the community around Harry's Brook publicly expressed their concerns regarding consistent flood conditions around their properties at Monday night's Township Committee meeting. The issue, which was not on the scheduled agenda, has been an ongoing problem in the area surrounding Harry's Brook, especially in light of two recent severe rainstorms that the area has sustained.

The flooding of Harry's Brook is due, in part, to water runoff from new construction upstream and recent road improvements along the Harry's Brook Basin. Committee members listened as Olivia Applegate of Random Road spoke of saturated grounds, irreversible damage to properties, and potentially hazardous situations for children.

"We are concerned with further unregulated development upstream, and massive development on environmentally sensitive lots within the Basin," Ms. Applegate said in her opening statement to the committee.

The development issue is a relatively new aspect to the issue, the flooding, however, is not. The topography of Harry's Basin is more than 400,000 years old, and floods had consistently occurred in the region before substantial development existed. The brook originates at Lake Carnegie, which is the site of the current state DOT construction of the new Harry's Brook Bridge, and separates into two main tributaries. Harry's Brook ends just west of Harrison Street, and the North Branch tributary travels north toward Terhune Road.

Ms. Applegate said that her property falls below the confluence of the two streams and that properties in that region are subjected to sudden flood areas approximately 300 feet wide. She also asked the Committee to look into immediate solutions to improve current conditions of the area.

"The Township must first implement the protection of environmentally sensitive areas, find ways to alleviate present flooding conditions along Harry's Brook, and immediately impose strict rules to control runoff from all construction," she said.

Deputy Mayor Bill Enslin, who presided over the meeting in Mayor Phyllis Marchand's absence, backed Ms. Applegate's concerns, saying that the area needs constant supervision to prevent further damage.

"A stream corridor in a built-out community needs focus," he said.

Princeton Township Engineer Robert Kiser said that certain plans of action proposed by the Township, while not eliminating the threat of flooding completely, can drastically reduce the worries of residents each time storm clouds appear on the horizon. The Township Engineering Department recommends limiting impervious surfaces on new expansions added to single-family lots. This would limit surface area on driveways, patios, pools, tennis courts, and other surfaces that can lead to higher-than-normal amounts of rainwater run-off during rainstorms.

Mr. Kiser has said that while there is no quick fix to the flooding problems, the Township is "looking ahead" to regulate construction on what appears to be a "large subdivision occurring in the Township."

"The Township will look to the future to see what can be done to prevent this flooding from getting significantly worse," Mr. Kiser said Tuesday. In addition to expansion limitations, he cited purchases of land parcels made by the Township to stave off over-development in the area. In the meantime, residents will have to deal with the flooding, but it is no easy task. Madeleine Wallmark, of Littlebrook Road, described the task of water removal after a storm.

"You can't get rid of six feet of water with a sump pump," she said.

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