MORRISTOWN – The Whippany River meandered peacefully Tuesday morning under Spring Street and alongside the Bethel Church.
The historic problem is that the river is not always as peaceful as it was on a warm spring day.
The Rev. Glenn King has lived in Morristown for most of his 64 years. He said the Whippany often floods and when it does, bad things happen.
Sometimes, there’s eight feet of water in the church. And nearby residents can’t get to the grocery store and kids can’t get to school.
That enduring problem is now getting some attention.
Rep. Mikie Sherrill joined many Republican leaders for a bipartisan celebration of sorts – plans are finally underway to solve the problem.
Officially, Sherrill awarded a $300,000 check to support an Army Corps of Engineers study on how to best mitigate flooding. This is not a local problem.
The Whippany River watershed covers around 36 square miles and also impacts such towns as Morris Plains, Florham Park and Hanover.
Nor is this a quick solution.
The money will pay for a study and then – perhaps in a year or so – work will begin.
Those pesky details seemed not all that important as Sherrill and others spoke of leaders from both parties coming together to benefit the public.
As was pointed out, flood waters don’t understand political divisions.
On hand were such Republicans as state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, Morris County Commissioners Tayfun Selen and Stephen Shaw and Florham Park Mayor Mark Taylor.
Democrats attending included local Mayor Tim Dougherty and Morris Plains Mayor Jason Karr.
The money for the study is one of “14 community projects” in CD-11 proposed by the congresswoman and approved for the current fiscal year. Also this week, Sherrill highlighted a $1.2 million grant to build a roundabout to solve a traffic safety issue at the intersection of Browertown Road and McBride Avenue in Woodland Park.
A spokesman for the Corps was upbeat about the river project, saying:
“This is what we love to do.”
The Rev. King applauded the study, but also urged that officials commit themselves to more affordable housing in the neighborhood. He expressed concern that ongoing gentrification in Morristown may displace long-time residents.