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How High Is High Enough?

New FEMA advisory base flood elevations won't be released until next week

How High Is High Enough?

Residents whose homes will have to be raised to comply with new flood standards will have to wait until next week to find out how high they will have to go.

That's because the Federal Emergency Management Agency's new advisory base flood elevations won't be released until next week, after state officials have had a chance to review them, a National Flood Insurance Program representative said at the Dec. 11 Council meeting in Ocean County's Berkeley Township.

"I anticipate next week," said NFIP official Dawn Livingston. "I can't promise."

The advisory delays were frustrating to some residents at the meeting, including Township Council President James J. Byrnes, whose Glen Cove home was substantially damaged in the storm.

"When am I going to know how high to build my house?" Byrnes asked during the meeting.

The biggest impact will be on the people who need to rebuild because their homes were more than 50 percent damaged in the storm, she said.

The new advisory base flood elevations could rise from one to four feet higher than the current requirements, she said.

And some sections of Berkeley that are not currently in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) zone will be after the new elevation maps come out, Livingston said.

"It's definitely going to have an impact on people," she said.

A Berkeley Shores resident said his home was already above the required current flood elevation.

"If I'm about five or six feet above, does that mean I have to raise my house?" he said.

"You may not have to," Livingston replied. "It does not mean you have to raise your house, but it could impact your insurance costs. Everybody's rates are likely to go up."

Residents with federally-backed mortgages whose homes were substantially damaged will have to comply with the new advisories, she said.

Small Business Administration representative Mark Jamison urged residents with storm-damaged homes to apply for low-interest SBA loans, regardless of whether they had flood insurance or FEMA assistance.

"Our only mandate is to avoid a duplication of benefits," he said.

If the structure is more than 50 percent substantially damaged or repetitively damaged, the homeowner would be eligible for Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage, which helps pay for the cost of complying with state or community floodplain management laws or ordinances from a flood event.

ICC coverage will help pay for the cost to elevate, flood-proof, demolish or relocate the building up to a maximum benefit of $30,000, according to the FEMA handbook "Answers to Questions About The NFIP."

Substantially damaged homes located in a flood zone must be retrofitted to meet current flood ordinances and construction codes, the township website states.

Remedies may include:

• Elevating the dwelling

• Raising the crawl space

• Eliminating basements

• Installation of flood vents

• Elevating mechanical devices like hot water heaters and furnaces

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