WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and the office of U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) met today with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate over concerns that changes to base flood elevation maps might be incorrect and might interfere with efforts to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy. The Administrator pledged a willingness to try to better communicate with residents and local governments and to expeditiously update the maps with any appropriate data provided to them.
FEMA released Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) maps for ten New Jersey counties in December, and while these ABFEs are not finalized the state's adoption of the maps in its building code has given them the force of law.
"Local leaders and residents deserve the ability to try to correct possible mistakes in proposed flood maps in a timely fashion," said Menendez.
"Hopefully, today's pledge by Administrator Fugate will lead to better data, better maps, and a quicker, more complete recovery. But we have a lot of work ahead of us and I will continue to work every day to make sure New Jersey can rebuild stronger and better than ever."
"As New Jersey homeowners and businesses rebuild after Superstorm Sandy and plan their futures, they deserve accurate flood maps that reflect the true flood risk," said Senator Lautenberg. "I appreciate Administrator Fugate's commitment to accept input from local communities and update the interim maps where appropriate, and we will continue to monitor FEMA's actions to make sure this happens."
The meeting followed a joint-letter to Administrator Fugate in which Senators Menendez and Lautenberg expressed their concerns about the changes in flood elevation maps and their impact on efforts to restore the homes of those affected by the storm. This morning the Senators received a response to the letter and in this afternoon's meeting received further assurances that FEMA will be working to improve their maps and their communications with the public.
Today's meeting also followed the Senators calling upon the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to make additional resources available to New Jersey homeowners who are in the process of rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy and have found their homes subject to new elevation requirements under FEMA's interim floodplain maps.
Administrator Fugate also revealed that over 80 percent of New Jersey flood insurance claims have now been settled and FEMA is working hard with state officials to ensure institutions with liens or holding mortgages on properties are not needlessly delaying payments to residents.