It was . . . impactful, to say the least.
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and N.J. Department of Environmental Protection were there, as well as representatives from the engineering firms that assisted in the mapping process.
Rep. Frank Pallone was there, too.
Some residents left the open house very happy, as they learned they were not in a flood zone, (some missing by only hairlines).
Others were rather upset and disgruntled, as FEMA rep Paul Weberg and I agreed they had every right to be.
The problem is that no one was given direct answers. FEMA took the same spiel it always has during the past few months. Questions were posed, answers were skirted.
I began thinking. What if FEMA were to come out and say that, yes, the Bayshore is suddenly burdened because the agency misspent millions of dollars after Hurricane Katrina and needs to replenish? (Just theoretical outburst, not that this is what actually happened. Speculation. See Part Two of the Flood Map Fallout series.)
Residents wouldn’t be any less upset. In fact, I think they’d be even angrier. But ultimately, I think they might respect the agency more for being honest. The truth, while often raw, is a powerful thing.
However, this does not change the fact that the re-evaluation of the flood maps was mandated by Congress several years ago, before Katrina even happened.
It makes me wonder to no end, though, why FEMA did not inform the Army Corps about its new standards. Then maybe the Corps could have spent its time developing projects that would make a difference and affect a community’s rating (Community Rating System, FEMO jargon).
The entire situation, no matter what angle you take, comes back to money. It costs money for the Army Corps to replenish beaches. It costs money for FEMA to implement new flood maps. Insurance policies cost money. Disasters cost money.
Living costs money. What happens when it gets too expensive to live? (Gas, food and flood insurance included.)
I’m just very glad FEMA came to the Bayshore again, although I’m not sure all that much will come of it. Pallone did say his office wanted to follow up in a meaningful way, and I certainly hope his legislation is recognized and passed in Congress.
The maps have entered the appeals process as of June 11. Guess what? That costs money, too, if you want to appeal effectively.
On the other hand, it’s effective putting faces to the problem. And let me tell you, there is never a shortage of passion in the Bayshore. I’m glad FEMA was able to see that.
While most FEMA reps claimed they understand the risk and just want to make sure residents do, too, I don’t think they quite grasp the gravity of reality. Not just yet.
For extended coverage of the FEMA Open House, pick up the June 19 issue of The Courier.
PHOTOS: (from top) Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), Rep Frank Pallone and Stephen Kempf, FEMA Regional Director of Region II. (Melissa L. Gaffney)