Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner and Assemblyman Timothy Eustace to help protect the public from flooding and facilitate smart development will go before the full assembly for approval after being approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.
The bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection to quickly evaluate any newly released FEMA flood maps in order to allow applicants to apply for a permit using the federal floodway delineation when it is at least as protective as the DEP's delineation. Sen. Bob Gordon is the primary sponsor of the senate version of this bill.
"Over the years, many flood maps have become outdated due to urban growth, changes in river flows and coastlines, and even flood mitigation efforts," Wagner said. "A home or business that may have once been located in a flood zone might not now, and vice versa. In the interest of public safety and economic progress, it's important that we make sure these flood designations are kept current."
Currently if a town has an existing DEP map, the FEMA map cannot be used, or relied upon, in determining flood elevations. The 1980 DEP flood map trumps the 2005 FEMA map. The FEMA map is primarily intended for use by the National Flood Insurance Program.
"Accurate and up-to-date delineations of floodways and flood hazard areas are essential to inform state and local officials and property owners of changing flood risks," Eustace said. "Bergen and Passaic counties are no strangers to the hazards of flooding. But the ever changing landscape of our state requires that we stay on top of these patterns so residents and business owners avoid flood traps."
The bill would amend the state "Flood Hazard Area Control Act" to direct DEP to update its delineations of flood hazard areas as frequently as necessary and at a minimum of at least once every 15 years, as well as whenever FEMA adopts a new floodway delineation.