WASHINGTON, D.C. – New Jersey’s U.S. senators today expressed their concern about the impact that changes to base flood elevation maps by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have on New Jerseyans who are still struggling to recover and rebuild after Superstorm Sandy.
FEMA released Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) maps for ten New Jersey counties in December and while these new maps are not finalized, FEMA’s regulations for assistance and the state’s adoption of them for these ten counties give the maps the force of law.
In a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez noted the new maps represent a dramatic increase over the current levels and would require homeowners to spend tens of thousands of dollars to elevate their home with pilings or be subject to increased flood insurance premiums.
“While we fully support the use of accurate and current information to determine and inform residents about flood risk, we would urge FEMA to exercise caution when making these decisions because of the extraordinary impact they are having on homeowners,” the Senators wrote. “For many middle-class homeowners, especially those who just lost everything to Sandy, these additional costs will simply be too much to bear. In order to avoid putting unnecessary burdens on these families, we are asking you to give homeowners the ability to immediately challenge the accuracy of the ABFEs. With the state’s adoption of these standards, homeowners cannot afford to wait until the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are released and eligible for appeal.”
According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the state’s new Flood Hazard Area Control Act rule only applies to properties that were substantially damaged and to new construction. Although there is no legal obligation for owners of undamaged properties to make changes because of the new elevation maps, when FEMA adopts its final flood maps they will have to deal with higher flood insurance rates if they do not meet the new standards.
On Feb. 1, the Senators called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to make additional resources available to New Jersey homeowners who are in the process of rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy and have found their homes subject to new elevation requirements under FEMA’s interim floodplain maps.