FEMA has announced that they will be coming out with updated flood maps for New Jersey’s coastal communities by in the summer of 2013. FEMA has already developed new flood maps for the rest of inland New Jersey. The Christie Administration has failed to adopt those maps into New Jersey’s state programs with the reasoning being it will limit develop in flood prone areas. New Jersey Sierra Club is concerned that FEMA will create these new maps for the coastal communities and the Christie Administration will not adopt these maps either. The last time all of these FEMA maps were updated was in 1980. The Christie Administration is refusing to adopt the FEMA maps for the state is because there are certain regulatory programs that are based on flood maps limiting development in those areas. After Hurricane Sandy it is vitally important that New Jersey adopts FEMA’s flood maps because by not doing so the Christie Administration will be continue to put people’s lives and property in danger.
Having these new FEMA maps are important especially after Hurricane Sandy it is even more important for the state to adopt them. 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. The Christie Administration has failed to adopt the maps that came out two years ago, which is why every time it rains we floods continue to get worse and worse. It is important to have FEMA come up with new maps and the state to adopt them. The failure of the Christie administration to update our maps leads to overdevelopment, sprawl, and increased flooding putting more peoples in harm’s way.
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. 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.
The Administration has even opposed legislation earlier this year that would allow DEP to update their flood maps every 15 years. 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.
Although there is more money going to the Blue Acres Program, without a table 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.
As we deal with the impacts from flooding New Jersey continues to promote development in the wrong places like wetlands and flood prone areas. Sprawl development and increased impervious cover increase flood impacts downstream, yet DEP and State Strategic Plan targets these areas for growth. This makes this law even more important since it provides funding for the Blue Acres Program. The major areas that have flooded along the Passaic and Raritan Basins are growth areas in the State Strategic Plan where government is trying to promote and encourage growth, putting more people in harm’s way.
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. The Administration is siding with developers and special interest over protecting property and people from flooding by not adopting these maps. Knowledge is power and without the proper information on flood areas you cannot make the right decision when it comes to development. The reason is if the public does not know what is happening then they can weaken and rollback environmental protections. The only problem is Mother Nature will let us know what they are doing when the storms come. Nature may bring the rains but government actions make the floods worse.
Jeff Tittel is the Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.