Toms River officials are pleased with the recent changes to FEMA flood maps and are offering residents the help of an engineer as they rebuild Superstorm Sandy-damaged homes under new elevation guidelines.
FEMA last week released its preliminary working maps, which have taken into account additional topographical information and wave modeling, allowing the number of residents placed in 'V,' or velocity, flood zones to decline.
The revised maps are “a whole different ballgame,” Township Council Vice President Maria Maruca said Tuesday night at a regular meeting.
“A lot of people don’t have to raise their homes,” she said. “Some of them still do, but not to the heights were they in the ‘V’ zones.”
In Ocean and Monmouth counties, the number of acres covered under 'V' zones declined by 45 and 46 percent, respectively. In Hudson County in northern New Jersey, the urban nature of the landscape led to a 76 percent reduction since dense development would attenuate breaking waves.
“Toms River was really well represented on those flood maps,” said Township Council President George Wittmann. “We got a fair shake.”
FEMA issued its advisory base flood elevation maps in late 2012, starting that process that would allow the federal government to update its patchwork of maps that determine flood risk throughout New Jersey.
Coastal areas prone to flooding are generally divided between 'A' and 'V' zones. Those in 'A' zones may elevate or build structures using block foundations, while those in 'V' zones must account for the potential for flowing water to impact their homes by raising them on pilings, which are significantly more costly than block foundations.
"We overestimated the ‘V’ zones, and we did that intentionally because we were being conservative," said Bill McDonnell, FEMA's mitigation branch director for New Jersey.
To help Toms River residents navigate the revised maps, an engineer will join Disaster Recovery Ombudsman Trevor Newman during his weekly office hours at the township’s Ortley Beach substation in the A&P plaza, Tuesdays from 4:15 to 7:30 p.m.
The decision to have an engineer join Newman came after township officials met with Ortley residents and found that many had questions about rebuilding under the new maps.
“The biggest question that came out of that meeting was that a lot of people were not sure of their new (Base Flood Elevation),” Maruca said.
Paul Jeffrey of the Ortley Beach Taxpayer’s Association told the council that having Newman and an engineer provide flood map guidance should be helpful to residents as they rebuild.
“I think that will be a big plus,” he said.
In addition to saving residents on potentially costly home elevations, the new maps mean an insurance savings for homeowners as rates revert to what they were before the more conservative maps, according to Wittmann.
Since the revised maps were released, township officials have been fielding hundreds of calls from residents inquiring about their new flood zone designation, the council said.
In addition to office hours each day in locations throughout Toms River—a schedule can be found here on the township’s website—Newman makes field appointments and can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 732-341-1000 ext. 8357.