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Irene River Cleanup Efforts Continue in Montville

Town teams up with local municipalities to help rid waterways of debris.

is continuing its team effort with seven other towns to desnag waterways that have contained debris since the tropical storm that followed Hurricane Irene.

Township Administrator Victor Canning and Mayor Tim Braden completed an inventory of snags in the township's rivers and streams last weekend. The inventory will be combined with that of the other towns' to possibly be used for a joint grant application.

Montville joins Rockaway Township, Rockaway Borough, Denville Township, Boonton Township, Town of Boonton, Wharton Borough and the Township of Parsippany on what has been called the Desnagging Committee of the Rockaway River. The Rockaway River runs through all of the municipalities involved and representatives from each have been meeting monthly to work together on an effort to rid the waterways of debris that prevents the stream of water from flowing properly.

In Montville, Canning said he was surprised to find as many snags as he did and that the situation was worse than he originally thought.

"There was quite a few areas where there were definitely snags," he said.

June Hercek, executive director for the Rockaway River Watershed Cabinet, which formed the committee, said volunteers have visited the municipalities and begun prioritizing areas that need desnagging immediately. While Hercek did not know if any of the priority areas were in Montville, she said volunteers will begin picking debris out of the water in Rockaway as early as next week and continue working their way downstream. The volunteers are municipal employees of the towns involved.

"It's certainly a community effort," she said. "We’ll work together and start that process in hopes of other communities sending employees. The more employees we have, the more we can continue our efforts."

Hercek said the desnagging committee was formed in March and has been working to build a foundation so that if the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection does make grant money available to assist with desnagging, the municipalities involved have a good chance at receiving funding. The municipalities joining together now is also intentional, as Hercek said she thinks the state department would look favorably upon the teamed up effort.

"We felt, working as a group, that the state would find our proposal higher than somebody else's because we were working jointly," she said.

Most of the affected Montville areas border Parsippany and Boonton, Canning said, with the Rockaway River running in the back of properties off of Changebridge Road and into the area of Vreeland Avenue, near Boonton. Hercek said Parsippany has had representation at the committee meetings, although the township has its own desnagging efforts underway. Canning praised the Township of Parsippany for their work in this area.

"To Mayor Barberio's credit, I think they're very progressive in that they've dedicated funds and staff and equipment to addressing this," he said.

In parts of the affected areas, one river bank is considered Montville and the other is considered Parsippany. Because of the geography, Canning said it is important for both Montville Township and the Township of Parsippany to work together.

"It's both sides that are involved. Whatever happens going forward, it's clearly got to be an effort of at least Parsippany and Montville," he said.

Hercek said the committee is working to come up with solutions for the municipalities regardless of grant funding.

"If these funds don't become available, then municipalities are looking to do work on their own so there isn't an issue where a storm comes up in the future and we haven't done anything," she said.

The biggest issue in many of the municipalities, particularly Boonton, is the number of large trees that have fallen into the river. While municipal employees and volunteers can pick up smaller debris, heavy trees present a more daunting challenge to remove. But not all debris that was found in the streams and rivers in Montville was natural, Canning said. Garbage and other items were also seen in the water.

"We, as humans, can clearly do things to help," Canning said.

Canning said residents should be mindful of where they throw trash and not place garbage in or near waterways.

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