MONTCLAIR — U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08), a former member of the House Water Resources Subcommittee who served as one of eight co-chairs of the Congressional Hurricane Irene Coalition, this morning delivered the keynote address at the fifth biennial Passaic River Symposium held at Montclair State University (MSU). The conference, entitled "Today’s Status, Tomorrow’s Perspective," was organized by the Passaic River Institute (PRI) of Montclair State University and included speakers and plenary sessions focusing on the environmental management challenges facing the Passaic River Basin, including flood mitigation and remediation of contaminated sediment.
Rep. Pascrell was joined by MSU President Dr. Susan A. Cole; PRI Director Dr. Meiyin Wu; Colonel Paul E. Owen, District Engineer of the US Army Corps of Engineers, NY District; NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin, and; US EPA Deputy Regional Administrator George Pavlou.
"I grew up along the Passaic River, and as a native Patersonian, I have always been mindful of the seminal role that it has played in our nation’s history," stated Pascrell during his remarks. "I continue to believe that real cooperation, based on the public private partnership model that we have developed, is the only solution to cleaning up the Lower Passaic in our lifetime, and we must all fight to keep this process alive. It is through cooperation, rather than litigation or simply throwing our hands in the air and going in our own direction, that we will restore the Passaic River in a faster, fairer, and more effective way. This is our best and maybe our only chance to clean up the river and we must not let it pass by."
Dr. Meiyin Wu was appointed Director of the Passaic River Institute in May and is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology and Molecular Biology at MSU.
"The institute was founded in 2004 when Montclair State University recognized the need for a formal university-based institute that could undertake long-term, extensive, trans-disciplinary scientific studies in the Passaic River Basin," Dr. Wu said of the PRI in a statement. "PRI is actively working on building a scientific community, conducting cutting-edge research, providing environmental trainings and education programs, and promoting public awareness in water science and environmental management. This Symposium focuses on a holistic approach to the Lower Passaic River Restoration Project as well as the entire Passaic River basin."
The program opened up with a panel discussion featuring Ella Fillipone, Executive Director of the Passaic River Coalition, Doug Reid-Green, Senior Environmental Specialist with BASF Corp. and Robert E. Fabricant, Esq. The panel focused on the remediation, restoration and economic revitalization of the Passaic River watershed.
The afternoon session included technical presentations from dozens of professors, researchers and scientists on the remediation and restoration of the Passaic River Superfund site, along with future opportunities facing the urban waterway.
"I have always believed – and continue to believe – that a safe and clean lower Passaic River will spur the creation of jobs, recreational opportunities, and local tax revenues and major positive social benefits can result for the affected communities that were negatively impacted by the environmental contamination and economic decline. It is because of the dedication of every person in this room to this worthy cause, that strides have been made in recent years, and I know many more can be made in the future," Pascrell stated during his remarks.
A tireless fighter for the Passaic River in Congress, Rep. Pascrell secured $1 million in the President’s FY2013 budget for the Passaic River Reevaluation Study, which the Department of Environmental Protection began pursuing after it was recommended by Governor Christie’s Passaic River Flood Commission. Both the House and the Senate have approved legislation fully funding this request. A Feasibility Cost-Sharing agreement between the Army Corps and the NJDEP was recently signed to allow Phase 1 of the study to begin.
In recent years Rep. Pascrell secured nearly $40 million for buyouts of flood prone homes in the Passaic River Basin. This includes $6,569,525.50 for buyouts of 41 properties in areas of Paterson, and Pompton Lakes, $3.1 million to Pompton Lakes for voluntary buyouts of approximately 13 homes, $6.3 million for approximately 56 homes in Wayne, and $2.9 million for approximately 15 homes in Little Falls. This funding followed a nearly $20 million award to the town of Wayne to buy out 72 homes, the largest award in the history of the State.
In July Rep. Pascrell voted in favor of H.R.4348 - MAP-21 (Transportation Bill), which also extends the National Flood Insurance Program to 2015. The bill also eliminated the local cost share for FEMA’s flood buyout grants for properties on the Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) list and allows for individuals to apply directly to FEMA for buyouts.
Rep. Pascrell also successfully enacted a law creating one of our nation's newest national parks at the Paterson Great Falls.