DEP Applies to Solidify FEMA Flood Map Revisions
Construction elevation standards in New Jersey’s flood-prone areas determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be New Jersey’s template, if filings by the Christie Administration are approved.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today filed an adoption package with the Office of Administrative Law. It would continue the emergency rule authorized by the Governor in January that adheres to FEMA’s Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps (ABFE). On average, they’re two to four feet higher than previous standards that hadn’t been upgraded in a couple of decades.
A statement from the Governor’s office says that the maps “are based on the best available data to best protect lives and property from the most severe storm surges.”
DEP Commissioner Bob Martin contends that it will help prevent insurance premium sticker shock after FEMA formally adopts its guidelines for flood coverage.
The number of homeowners who will be required to comply is likely to shift as revisions continue until the August finalization deadline.
State administrators are also seeking to tap into federal Community Development Block Grant money to help cover the anticipated hefty financial hit. Eligible homeowners would receive up to $150,000 each under the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation program.
Priority would go to homes in the nine most-affected counties with damages exceeding 50 percent of market value as determined by local floodplain managers.
Reconstruction timelines are at the homeowner’s discretion, says Martin. DEP will keep adjusting local requirements during FEMA map reviews.
Homeowners with less than 50 percent damage are also not required to start immediately, he adds, but inaction opens the risk of higher flood insurance rates if elevations don’t match FEMA guidelines. Owners of structures with more than 50 percent damage are required to raise them to ABFE, plus one foot – a stipulation in the current Flood Hazard Area Control Act.