'West Side' Drainage Project
Berkeley Heights Township has retained Neglia Engineering Associates (NEA) to perform a study of the drainage system in the western portion of the municipality. The purpose of the study is to identify deficiencies or conditions within the existing stormwater conveyance systems that may contribute to or exacerbate flooding, erosion, or other adverse conditions. Additionally, the draft report found provides specific recommendations for improving the drainage conveyance system in the subject drainage area.
Drainage Project Updates
April 6, 2021
Presently, we have completed all of the preliminary/conceptual design work for the drainage improvements. Conceptually, the I-Bank is on-board with the project, and has advised as long as procedures are followed, and that the Township has the creditworthiness, there should be no issue securing a loan for this project. In order to move into the next phase of securing the loan, the Township must progress the conceptual design into a finalized design, and then apply for and obtain all required land use permits. These permits are needed for any disturbances to freshwater wetlands, riparian buffers (along the stream channels), construction or modification to stormwater outfalls, and work within any flood hazard areas. The next phase for Neglia’s effort would be to perform the detailed on-ground topographic surveying and wetlands delineations. The topographic survey will allow Neglia to confirm and finalize the conceptual design, along with designing the improvements around existing utilities, dwellings, etc. This survey work will also allow Neglia to refine the cost assumed/estimated for restoration of private properties, as well as to finalize temporary (construction) easements and permanent (drainage) easements. As mentioned previously, many easements will be needed for the construction and for the final improvements on the properties. Neglia will also need to coordinate access upon all properties within the scope of work area to survey the lots. Neglia will also retain a wetlands scientist to determine the presence or absence of freshwater wetlands and state open waters, and delineate the limit of the same for permitting purposes.
As you are aware, the Council has considered allocating additional budget to progress the project. Neglia awaits the Council’s approval of this additional budget in order to progress the project forward.
December 21, 2020
Last week, on December 17, our engineers at Neglia Engineering had an informal meeting with people at the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (NJIB, or "i-Bank") and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding I-Bank projects in general. At the end of the meeting, we had breakout room meetings and I discussed our project with them to get some insight as to the next steps for the project. Mary Pearsall (coordinator at NJIB) reviewed our application’s current standing and found that everything is in order thus far. The next step would be have what’s called a “Pre-Planning Meeting” with multiple representatives from the Township, which Mary has tentatively scheduled. This may have come to you or other members as an email from Eugenia, though it was originated by Mary Pearsall who has access to our account. This is scheduled for January 14, 2021.
The representatives at this meeting will involve departments at the Land Use Division at the DEP, who will be guiding us through the extensive permitting process. Basically, any work done to streams or discharges into streams will almost be guaranteed to require a permit. This meeting will help both the Township and Neglia understand the NJIB and NJDEP’s exact expectations and requirements in order to obtain the required permits, and provide the required documents to process this loan. The NJIB said that they do not provide letters of intent or any actual correspondence providing a commitment. However, I was advised by an NJIB rep who indicated that as long as the Township follows the protocols and requirements that they explicitly provide, and that the Township is creditworthy enough, they see no reason why this project in particular would not be funded by the NJIB.
After this meeting, we will have a clear picture of exactly what is required. The Township will then get a comprehensive proposal to provide, in general, two main services: (1) complete engineering design, permitting, and bidding of the entirety of the West Side Drainage Improvements project (providing bidding and construction documents), full construction management and inspection from pre- to post-construction, including all State and funding closeout, and (2) providing the Township and officials with the loan application support and administration from pre- to post-construction, as required from the engineer/project manager.
The next phase of the project will become significantly more intensive.
September 21, 2020
Neglia Engineering Associates (“NEA”) was previously retained by the Township to perform a study of a drainage system in the western portion of the municipality. The purpose of the study was to identify deficiencies or conditions within the existing stormwater conveyance systems that may contribute to or exacerbate flooding, erosion, or other adverse conditions. Additionally, the study will also provide specific recommendations for improving the drainage conveyance systems in the subject drainage area.
On Tuesday, August 18th, NEA attended a Mayor and Council meeting to present the preliminary findings of the study, as well as conceptual-level recommendations for addressing the drainage issues. At that time, NEA was only able to convey the 10-year design storm event. Since the August meeting, NEA was able to revise the system model to safely and effectively convey the 25-year design storm. This means that the new drainage system will discharge the 25-year storm event without surcharging, or backing-up inlets. Presently, the existing system cannot safely accommodate a 1-year storm event. As such, this presents a significant improvement compared to existing conditions. Additionally, the 25-year design storm is the industry standard for new municipal drainage system capacity.
As mentioned during the August 18th meeting, NEA and the Township were also working to secure funding from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank (“NJIB”) for the project. On Tuesday, September 15th, NEA and Township representatives attended a preliminary conference call with the NJIB to express the Township’s interest in obtaining funding for the drainage project. The NJIB was receptive to the project and recommends that the Township proceed to the next steps. It should be noted that there has not been any commitment or confirmation of acceptance for the project, nor is such typically provided at this time. Based on the call, below is an anticipated schedule of the next steps from conception through construction.
Step 1: Preparation of construction documents (plans and specifications) and permitting applications and supporting documents (multiple State and County agency permits required for this work, and must be in- hand for funding from NJIB) [6 – 12 months];
Step 2: Securing of temporary easements from multiple private property owners for the construction of improved drainage systems and/or stream improvements, as well as permanent easements for future inspection, maintenance, and repairs of the new infrastructure. Private property owners must co-sign permit applications. Once easements are secured, and permitting applications endorsed by all parties, such can be submitted to the various agencies with jurisdiction over the project. This can happen somewhat concurrently with Step 1, as long as final easement scopes can be determined before 100% completion of design [3 – 6 months];
Step 3: Submit permitting application and supporting documents to State and County agencies for permitting review and approval (Note: this time is estimated, and due to pandemic conditions, the normal regulatory review periods have been extended and are therefore subject to change and outside factors) [6 – 9 months];
Step 4: Submit all plans, specifications, easement agreements, and financial documentation to NJIB for funding processing and approval [3 – 6 months]; and
Step 5: Commence construction. Depending on the final scope of the work, NEA preliminarily anticipates construction would last approximately 12 – 18 months.
The report is virtually complete at this time. However, as per further direction from the Township, NEA is currently compiling mapping and a list of properties that will be impacted by the construction, and will therefore require coordination of easements. Once completed, NEA will provide a draft of the report to the Township for review prior to submission of the final report. NEA anticipates completing this draft within the next few weeks.
NEA has prepared a conceptual level estimate of the probable cost of construction for the proposed drainage improvements. At this time, NEA has preliminarily estimated the cost for this project to reside in the ballpark of $15 to 20 million. The reason for the large range of cost is that there are many unknowns for the project. Due to the significant amount of unknown information at this time, there are several allowances in the estimate to provide adequate budget should certain conditions arise or to address uncertain expenses required for construction, such as:
- Private property restoration (i.e. driveways, patios, lawns/landscaping, sheds, gazebos, pools/spas, walls, etc.)
- Removal and replacement unsuitable soils or rock;
- Relocation of existing utilities; construction of new larger pipes may require existing utilities to be relocated. Generally, pressurized or otherwise non-gravity driven utilities, such as potable water, natural gas, electric, and telecommunications, do not require expansive improvements in order to relocate. However, relocating existing gravity-driven sanitary sewers, other storm sewers, or force mains driven by a pumping station may require extensive improvements to relocate these systems, either horizontally and/or vertically speaking. Because a full utility inventory, inclusive of ground penetrating radar, has not yet been performed, the full extent of these relocations is undetermined at this time. Such would be confirmed during the construction phase of the project.