Rahway residents complain about Orchard Creek flooding

Accumulated debris and sediment in Orchard Creek in Rahway are major contributors as to why flooding is common along the waterway, residents say.

RAHWAY, N.J. — Residents in the southeast corner of the city have renewed their complaints about flooding along and around Orchard Creek to the City Council, with at least one saying she has to move her car during rain storms so it won’t become swamped.

The Murray Street homeowner told the council at its Sept. 3 meeting that any downpour spurs her to rush out to her vehicle, saying she is worried because Murray Street intersects with Lenz Court, which runs parallel to the creek about 100 feet to the southeast. Lenz floods “halfway up” every time it rains, she said.

With the area surrounding the waterway in a federally declared flood zone, officials are offering some short-term mitigation, but longer-term solutions are less defined.

“Lenz Court and Murray Street, as well as property surrounding Orchard Creek, are in nationally recognized flood zones,” Jacqueline Foushee, Rahway city engineer and director of community development, said in a recent interview with LocalSource. “The Department of Public Works has completed de-snagging on areas that are publicly owned. So, next week, the Department of Public Works will complete the de-snagging process in the Lenz Court area.”

She added that, because homeowners along the creek are in a FEMA-recognized flood zone, they are responsible for buying flood insurance.

Orchard creek flows eastward from the St. Gertrude Cemetery in the Colonia section in Woodbridge under Bramhall Road, turns south and flows into the South Branch of the Rahway River. The city is searching for an engineering firm that will evaluate the area in and around the creek to provide suggestions about mitigating the overflow, according to resident Daniel Gagnon, who met with Mayor Raymond Giacobbe on Aug. 28 to discuss the flooding, including clearing trash and debris to ease the water’s movement.

In a subsequent letter to the City Council and mayor, a copy of which was provided to the LocalSource, Gagnon summarized the meeting, saying the mayor committed to meeting with Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac to discuss cooperative efforts regarding the waterway. Local officials are limited in how they address waterway work, and need state approval.

In a recent interview with LocalSource, Gagnon said he would like to see long-term solutions in writing, including a timeline to address the creek issues.

“This portion of Orchard Creek that runs through Rahway cannot handle the volume of water being forced into it by Woodbridge Township,” he said. “There’s massive sediment buildup along the length of Orchard Creek.

“Orchard Creek has been neglected for decades along the entire stretch, not just the section near Lenz Court. This is a multifaceted problem. The creek itself is in a disaster state. The debris is definitely a problem, too. It seems to me like they’re just trying to do whatever they’re trying to do so that I stay quiet about it. There needs to be a comprehensive plan, and it needs to be in writing.”

Alan Dolansky, a resident who lives at the corner of Murray Street and Lenz Court, said at the Sept. 3 meeting that he is concerned about a 20- to 30-foot hill in the area and that flooding in the area worsens with every storm. He added that there are several dead trees on top of the hill, which is owned by the county and is not being maintained. A stream in that area is eroding, so parts of the hill are feeding into the creek, he said.

“We’ve trimmed back as far as we can reach, but there’s still a lot of debris out there,” Dolansky said.