Flood Maps Could Alter Shoreline 'Considerably' and at 'Unimaginable' Cost, Mayor Says
Mayor Thomas Kelaher responds to Gov. Chris Christie's announcement that the state has adopted FEMA flood maps
The state's adoption Thursday of the current Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency could change Toms River's shoreline, and at a high cost, Mayor Thomas Kelaher said.
"The Governor’s action assures us that our residents will remain eligible for FEMA funding, but in our township, we could see up to 10,000 homes needing to be raised," Kelaher said in a statement issued Thursday night. "This will change the look of our shoreline considerably and the cost is unimaginable."
The advisory maps, or ABFE's, were released in December 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.
"The issue that the township has with this announcement is that we believe that significant portions of the township mainland and portions of the barrier island are in the wrong flood designation V vs. an A zone," Council President George Wittmann said in a statement Friday morning. "This will force homeowners to wait until August until the maps are released to see if the zone changes back to an A zone."
Wittmann has indicated that the state's adoption of the maps could become a financial burden to residents trying to rebuild if they are changed upon final release in August.
"If they move ahead they could potentially spend $20-30 thousand more to construct a foundation system that complies with the V zone requirement," he said.
The Township Council, which has disputed the classifications on the now-adopted maps, this week passed a resolution opposing the documents.
"The maps really created more questions than they did answers," Kelaher said during the the Tuesday night meeting when the resolution was passed.
"Our Township Engineer sees extensive flaws in the mapping, especially where it relates to the Velocity zone on the mainland, and not planning high enough on the barrier island," Kelaher said in a statement Thursday night. The engineer, Bob Chankalian, has written to FEMA and, along with Kelaher and other township representatives, met with FEMA officials on Wednesday.
FEMA representatives said that the agency will examine the velocity zone designations that are in question. The mainland velocity zone may be reduced when the next round of maps are released, according to the township, but FEMA could not yet commit to that change.
FEMA also said that it is "highly likely" that the sections of barrier island not in the velocity zone will likely end up in that zone when revised maps are released in August, according to the township.
Christie said the state 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.