November 22, 1981: Cross Bergen Pipeline, Part of the Wanaque South Project

Wanaque Reservoir

Wanaque Reservoir

November 22, 1981: New York Times article. New Jersey Journal. “The 17-mile, cross-Bergen pipeline that is designed to give the Hackensack Water Company badly needed reserves from the Wanaque Reservoir has hit a new snag.

Two towns along the route, Ridgewood and neighboring Midland Park, do not want their residential streets torn up for the pipeline. Alternative routes are being explored, but it is uncertain now whether agreements can be reached without disrupting the company’s plans to lay the pipes next spring and summer.

The entire water-transfer project – once called Two Bridges and now known as Wanaque South – has encountered delays and pitfalls since Hackensack Water first proposed it in the mid-1970’s.

First, hearings dragged on for months before the state gave its final approval. Next, Paterson sued to halt the project, saying that use of water from the Passaic River would dry up Paterson’s Great Falls. The State Supreme Court threw out the suit last October as the 1980 water shortage was deepening.

Then Hackensack Water said that it did not have the money to build the pipeline and the pumping stations needed to draw water from the Passaic River and pump it north into the Wanaque Reservoir for storage. As a result, the state granted Hackensack a 47 percent rate increase to overcome the financial difficulty.

Throughout the water shortage last fall and winter, Hackensack Water contended that the crisis would not have developed if the state hearings had not dragged on and Paterson had not held up the project for months.

During the delays, negotiations with the two towns about the pipeline route were apparently nonexistent. The legal and financial problems were thought to have been the final obstacles.

Why wasn’t the route question resolved earlier so that work on what the state calls its most crucial new water-supply project could begin forthwith?

”It would have been imprudent to be spending a lot of money on engineering studies without a final approval from the state in our hands,” said Martha Green, a spokesman for Hackensack Water.

The disputed Midland Park-Ridgewood portion is 3.5 miles. The towns, neither of which is served by Hackensack Water, can block the pipeline by denying the company permits to dig up local streets.

Four miles of pipeline are to pass through Paramus and Oradell, both customers of Hackensack Water, and because the utility has the water-sales franchise for them, it does not need the same street digging permit that it requires from Midland Park and Ridgewood. Neither Paramus nor Oradell has voiced objections.

The 10 remaining miles of pipeline are to run parallel to railroad rights-of-way in Pompton Lakes, Oakland and Wyckoff.”

Commentary: No one said that improving infrastructure would be easy. Something as straightforward as building a needed pipeline is certain to bring out the “Not in My Backyard” crowd. The good news is that an article in 1985 forecast that the pipeline would be completed by 1987. Another article in 1985 stated that the incremental project has already been a huge benefit for northern New Jersey.

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