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New Jersey to Adopt FEMA's Flood Elevation Maps, Christie Says

At a press conference in Seaside Heights, Gov. Chris Christie said the new flood maps will help the Jersey Shore rebuild better and stronger.

New Jersey will adopt the Federal Emergency Management's (FEMA) Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps, clearing the way for residents and business owners along the Jersey Shore to rebuild better and stronger, Gov. Chris Christie announced during a press conference in Seaside Heights Thursday afternoon.

The move comes as residents along the shore wait to find out not if they'll have to raise their homes following Hurricane Sandy, but just how high. 

"If we wait, all we're doing is delaying New Jersey's recovery," Christie said, adding: "I think this is what we need to do to build a 21st century Jersey Shore."

The and recommend that residents in flood zones in 10 counties and 194 communities raise their homes on average between 1 and 5 feet. Based on a scientific analysis of recent and past storms, the flood maps estimate the kind of flooding various zones can expect during a once-a-century storm, like Hurricane Sandy.

It's anticipated that the advisory maps will be adopted by FEMA as its new flood insurance maps. While the new maps - and new insurance rates - won't become official for anywhere between 18 and 24 months, conforming to the standards of the advisory maps is necessary when it comes to rebuilding, Christie said.

By adopting the advisory maps at the state level, Christie said it removes the onus from municipalities still struggling to understand the maps and their ramifications. The move also eliminates the potential for what could have been a patchwork of non-conforming standards throughout the state.

Adoption also makes it easier for property owners to begin to rebuild by removing the need for state Department of Environmental Protection permitting, a step usually required for those looking to elevate their homes.

"In my viewpoint this is very good news for Middletown and its residents," said Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger, in a statement to Patch. "The governor’s action puts some certainty into what has so far been a very uncertain process."

Middletown had already begun the process of adopting the Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) that the governor has now enacted.

"This saves us and our residents at least 4-6 weeks’ worth of time," Scharfenberger said. "While it still may take some significant time for many people to sort through all of their issues with their flood insurance companies, FEMA, SBA and their mortgage companies, at least now they know what standard they have to build to and they can at least start the process of finding out what all of their costs are likely to be.  

Christie said New Jersey is adopting the flood maps as is, though he encouraged property owners in affected flood zones to build higher, if possible. Should FEMA determine that its advisory maps are too high in some areas, it will only benefit property owners by having buildings that are safer and more resilient to future storms, Christie said. 

Using an example offered by FEMA, Christie explained the kind of flood insurance premium increases property owners could anticipate if they don't build to, or above, the new flood maps. 

If a property in an A Zone, which is described as a high-hazard zone, is 4 feet below the flood maps, the owner can expect to pay up to $31,000 in insurance a year. If the property is built or elevated to the new standard, that total drops to $7,000. Another two feet above the the recommended height and that total is cut in half. 

FEMA has maintained since introducing the new maps that while they are advisory, they are expected to be very similar to those adopted as the new insurance maps. FEMA officials have stated publicly that while the flood maps could go down in some areas, they will not increase.

By adopting the advisory maps, New Jersey has also made it easier for property owners to receive Increase Cost of Compliance, or ICC, funding. For those with flood insurance, ICC can provide as much as $30,000 to raise a home. Without adopting FEMA's standards, however, that money would not be released.

"I can't wait another 18 to 24 months to rebuild the Jersey Shore," Christie said. "That is an unacceptable alternative to me." 

Bob Burlew, the construction official in Union Beach and Keyport, said there are 510 houses that have to be rebuilt in Union Beach, and there are 2,000 people currently without a home. 

Burlew said he hoped the governor's announcement would move things forward. 

"It's a gigantic mess. It's terrible over here. I don't even know where to start and I'm in the middle of it" he said.

Burlew, who has depended on help from construction officials in five different towns to manage an overwhelming workload, said a major problem is that folks can't afford to rebuild, and can't afford the SBA loans because they lost cars and can't get to work. They won't be able to afford insurance costs that could potentially be higher than their property taxes. They need the ICC money. 

"We need the people to get their money," he said.  

jerseyswamps January 24, 2013 at 11:18 PM
What about flood zone classifications? Some people can not understand why one place rated as a higher risk than another. Some examples make a lot of sense. Can someone challenge what zone they are in? If so, how?
Belford Bob January 25, 2013 at 12:48 AM
$31,000 a year for flood insurance? Come on Governor, that's an absurd number and you know it. $7,000 is an absurd number for annual flood insurance premiums. If anyone believes that NFIP would set rates at $31,000 for coverage of $250,000 or less, you are foolish. If this is the case, homeowners who received minimal damage in these zones will be paying upwards of $31,000 a year for flood insurance because the didn't need to raise their houses. What will be done about that?
Sue January 25, 2013 at 01:37 AM
88 days...my son lives in Port Monmouth and Middletown has been jerking him around for 88 days. Raise it 6 ft...raise it 8 ft...raise it 13 ft...knock it down...and today...raise it 3 feet. They have no clue!! And $31, 000 for flood insurance! !! Mortgage company holding insurance money..FEMA is a joke....something needs to be done to help all these people and the town officials don't know what to do or how to handle this. ..they should be ashamed! And these are just advisories...not any kind of building code or law yet. Thank you for letting me rant.
Legion January 25, 2013 at 04:13 AM
In all honesty, it's not insurance if there is almost a guarantee that the agency will pay out every two or three years, and that's exactly what happens when people live in flood plains, here or elsewhere. FEMA money comes more from the nation's income tax receipts (and borrowing) than from the premiums paid. That is the sad fact. We either need to encourage people to not live in flood plains or to build flood resistant houses (like elevating them). Houses built to code at the proper elevation won't have higher premiums, that's the incentive here...
Bill Heller January 25, 2013 at 08:11 AM
This is as insane as it gets and it will be the death of the middle class shore and river towns in NJ and all across the US as this gets implemented nationwide. First of all, even if you are entitled to the lower $7K flood premium, that's about 6 to 7 times what folks are paying now. Plus, most flood insurance providers haven't paid their Sandy claims yet and a lot of folks have run our of money having paid for some repairs already out of pocket. I'm one of them, and I imagine I'll have to fight to get what's due. Plus, the fact that folks can't raise their homes until the FEMA grants become available in a year or two means that they can't "be ahead of the game having raised their homes"as Christie stated in another article. We have all been warned that if we raise our homes with our own money, FEMA will not issue a grant after the fact. That also means many may be subject to the $31K per year policy until they (a) receive their grant money and (b) hire a contractor who then completes the work before the $31K policy required date. All this in one of the highest property and income tax states in the country - the middle class here is screwed. And where's battling Christie when we need him? It seems he folded easily on this one. I can see a protest march on a FEMA building in our futures....or a mass exodus from NJ. if this is how the Federal government handles flood insurance, I can only imagine how bad it will get as they become more responsible for health insurance.
jerseyswamps January 25, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Exaggerate much? Almost a guarantee of a claim every 2-3 years? Some living near rivers in north Jersey have been getting hit more because of over building with no flood control up river from those homes. But that's relatively new and not the home owners fault. Blame suburban sprawl. Along the shore flooding is relatively rare. The last time we had FEMA around in any big way was the "92 storm and it was nothing like this past storm.
RIFFAXE January 25, 2013 at 12:32 PM
This is a great example of how the Government is in collusion with in this case the Insurance Industry. The insurance industry can charge any premium they wish, supposedly based on risk, and then every time it's time to payout the govt. comes in with cash for them, and then to add insult to injury the insurance companies raise the premiums again. As outrageous as any of this is, there are no answers to any of these issues because the Govt.at all levels are in command and will be acting like they have your safety and well being in mind. Anyone that has property in these areas that are being forced to be rebuilt a certain way, may have to walk away from their homes. As this happens over the next few years, we need to keep our eyes on those properties, and who suddenly gets control of the properties (i.e.insiders). Down the road you will see new ownership of these properties and they will not be rebuilt according to new guidelines. There will be auctions for these properties that only a few select individuals will know about. Yes it sounds like a conspiracy, but i have seen this happen with every one of these disasters.
bd January 25, 2013 at 02:09 PM
when homeowners are waiting for Gubmint checks to pay for their personal home--America is doomed.
bd January 25, 2013 at 02:10 PM
it's not insurance anymore---it's just another Gubmint handout as we rocket towards insolvency under Milhous.
bd January 25, 2013 at 02:13 PM
Whatever the Gubmint hands out to you aka NFIP, the Gubmint can take away---it's really not that hard of a concept----build inland.
PM EH January 25, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Two comments: 1) The Patch article refers to Zone A properties paying up to $31,000. I believe that Christie's example was for a Zone A property re-mapped as a Zone V property. 2) Where did Christie come up with the $31,000 figure in the first place?

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