A new round of flood zone maps for four New Jersey counties are due out Monday, officials have confirmed.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's maps dictate flood risk, elevation and foundational requirements for construction purposes and, ultimately, determine the rate a homeowner will pay for flood insurance.
Advisory maps were released in December and adopted by New Jersey, but preliminary working maps - normally the last round of the maps before the final versions are released – are due out Monday for Atlantic, Ocean, Monmouth and Hudson counties.
The new maps will scale back the number of homes in 'V,' or velocity, flood zones, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
Coastal areas prone to flooding are generally divided between 'A' and 'V' zones. Those in 'A' zones may elevate their homes using block foundations, while those in 'V' zones must account for the potential for flowing water to impact their homes by raising them on piling foundations, which are significantly more costly.
"For the past month I've been pushing FEMA to complete and release these maps, because I believed the ABFE [Advisory Base Flood Elevation] maps were fundamentally flawed and incorrectly included far too many homes in high-risk, or 'V' zones," said Menendez. "The new working maps being released confirm this belief as they remove large areas from the 'V' zone designation."
Homeowners whose structures were more than 50 percent damaged by Superstorm Sandy will be required to elevate them to FEMA standards. There is also a looming threat that flood insurance rates could for homes that are not elevated.
After the advisory maps were issued in December, an outcry from coastal residents emerged as it was later found out that features such as dunes, bulkheads, docks and other structures that could reduce the impact of waves were not considered. The lack of that data was blamed for the the placement of thousands of homes in 'V' zones that previously had not been classified as such.
"This is great news for the hundreds if not thousands of people who were incorrectly included in high-risk, high-cost V zones," said George Kasimos, the Toms River resident who founded the group "Stop FEMA Now" after the advisory maps were published late last year.
Kasimos credited Menendez for "acting as our megaphone" in Washington to push FEMA to correct the maps.
"As I said all along, the ABFE maps released in December erroneously included far too many properties into the zones that required drastic alterations to homes including elevations," said Ron Jampel, a Brick resident who started the group Save Our Communities 2013. "That put unnecessary stress and delays on homeowners struggling to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy."
The release of the preliminary maps, also called working maps, begins a process under which municipalities and property owners can formally oppose their flood designations.
After that process is completed, FEMA will officially adopt the maps and begin using them to determine flood insurance rates.