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Christie to Make Announcement on FEMA Maps and Rebuilding

Date : Fri, 25 Jan 2013 11:18:12 -0500


For Immediate Release
January 24, 2013 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Christie to Make Announcement on FEMA Maps and Rebuilding Today Governor Christie is expected to make an announcement on the adoption of federal FEMA mapping and rebuilding following Hurricane Sandy.New Jersey has not fully updated its FEMA flood mapping since 1980.The Christie administration has yet to adopt the updated inland flood maps released two years ago into regulatory programs, as these updates will limit development in flood prone areas.FEMA is currently revising mapping for our state's coastal communities based on the impacts of Hurricane Sandy and those maps should be available this summer.The new FEMA maps will be based on Hurricane Sandy but do not take into account sea level rise or the impacts of a Category three Hurricane which can hit New Jersey.The Christie administration must commit to adopting those maps when they become available so we rebuild the shore better and smarter.Failure to adopt these maps will put people and property in harm's way.

"FEMA mapping has to be the basis for rebuilding in New Jersey.Without a solid foundation of where flooding is going to happen, our efforts at rebuilding will be a waste.These maps have to be adopted to the state regulatory programs so that when projects are approved we are putting people and property out of harm's way and pull back from the most vulnerable areas to rebuild in a way that is both resilient and sustainable," *said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. *"If we do not update the maps, the state will be approving projects where they will not be able to get flood insurance or mortgages risking rebuilding our coast and our economic recovery." Before the super storm, the Christie Administration refused to adopt the FEMA maps for the state because certain regulatory programs are based on flood maps and the new maps would have limited development in those areas.Last year the DEP testified that legislation requiring the state to implement the latest FEMA mapping every 15 years would be too costly.

"The current state maps are more than 30 years old and do not take into consideration changes that have occurred because of development, sea level rise and other factors.If we do not update the maps we are putting more people and property in harm's way and wasting billions of dollars in recovery money," said Jeff Tittel. By not having flood maps we put people in danger because they do not take precautionary measures like purchasing flood insurance or evacuating during a storm. By not having flood insurance it means the taxpayers pay to rebuild the houses instead of having insurance pay for it.FEMA will only reimburse for projects that are lawful and if we rebuild in ways that violate environmental laws or do not have permits they will not be compensated, costing taxpayers millions. If we do not update our maps we will continue developing in areas that continuously flood creating more flooding. In addition people who live in areas that should be included in the flood areas do not realize they are and do not plan for a flood until it's too late. This also means these homes are not eligible for Blue Acres funding even though they are prone flooding. Devastating storms and extreme weather are going to become regular occurrences making it vitally important that New Jersey begins to tackle the issue of flooding in our state.

"Before we can rebuild the Jersey shore we need to know where we can build and if the state does not adopt these updated maps we are going to be putting more people at risk, creating more danger and more flooding. We will not be able to build the Shore smarts or better if we do not have a foundation based on science and these FEMA maps. If New Jersey keeps avoiding storm surges and sea level raise by failing to adopt these maps FEMA could cancel the flood insurance programs in New Jersey," said Jeff Tittel. The Administration has opposed updating the flood mapping as it would limit development in flood prone areas.There are regulatory programs that limit develop in flood prone or flood hazard areas including Water Quality Planning keeping sewers out of these areas. Flood hazard areas limit the amount of development and fill along with storm water and CAFRA coastal development. By not adopting these maps these regulations are based on outdated maps not showing the increase in flooding in New Jersey and more flood prone property. By not adopting these maps we are promoting overdevelopment in areas that not only flood, but will be putting people and property in harms ways, creating more flooding impacting more property and people. This can also cause a conflict where the federal government will require flood insurance, but people won't know since the flood maps are no up to date.

"We have been calling for the update of flood maps for years, while flooding continues to get worse and we keep getting more development and sprawl. The reason the Administration does not want to fix maps is that it will limit development in areas that the Administration keeps wanting to overdevelop. People who live in these areas that should be included in the Flood Hazard area do not buy flood insurance or realize they could sell there homes under the New Jerseys Blue Acres Program and get out of harms way .The failure to update the Flood Maps puts them at risk for flooding and costs the taxpayers money." said Tittel.

Although there is more money going to the Blue Acres Program, without a stable source of funding there is not enough money to meet the demand. The Blue Acres will help buy people out and removing them from a living situation where they constantly need to evacuate, clean up and fix their homes because of flooding. In addition there has to be money set aside to remove bridges and culverts that create flooding also money in some cases to build bridges with larger openings to prevent flooding. We need funding to remove structures and fill so we can restore the flood plains. One of the problems with Blue Acres it that it is voluntary so one house may be bought out, but another may not stopping the removal of fill and flood storage in those areas. The state needs to find areas to create new flood storage opportunities along the river whether it is restoring floodplain or building flood storage areas in vacant lands along the river. In some places we may need to have dikes and pumps or other manmade structures to deal with flooding. Although some manmade structures made things worse in some circumstances, in others it can help us alleviate flooding.

 "With flooding becoming more frequent and storm surges becoming worse the government and the public need this information to adequately prepare for storms and floods. The failure to adopt these maps ends up costing more money, puts property in harm's way and people at risk for flooding and severe storms. Knowledge is power and without the proper information on flood areas you cannot make the right decision when it comes to development," said Jeff Tittel."In order for us to rebuild and have a future at the coast, rebuilding needs to be based on sound science, not political science."

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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