It's no secret that township officials didn't like FEMA's advisory base flood elevation guidelines almost as soon as they were released in mid-December.
But last night they unhappily adopted an ordinance officially adopting the new standards "under extreme protest," the ordinance states.
The advisory base flood elevations (ABFEs) are already the law of the land, since Gov. Chris Christie issued an emergency order back in January.
But it was necessary to adopt them in Berkeley to make it easier for residents whose homes were more than 50 percent damaged to qualify for Increased Cost of Compensation (ICC) grants, Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said.
"Some insurance companies are not recognizing the Governor's executive order," Amato said. "This will impair the ability of residents to receive ICC funds," he said.
Adopting the maps was also necessary to retain Berkeley's standing in the National Flood Insurance Program as a participant in the Community Rating System. Berkeley residents receive a 15 percent reduction in flood insurance premiums, the mayor said.
But Berkeley will continue to oppose the maps, which township officials have said are flawed, especially the "V" zone designations - areas deemed vulnerable to three-foot wave action during storms - and Coastal A zone designations.
"Unfortunately, the advisory maps remain inaccurate, which causes concern for me and the entire governing body," Amato said in a March 8 letter to FEMA official Scott Duell.
Amato asked for an "immediate map change," and said the maps did not take into account already available mapping for dunes, bulkheads, roads, islands, salt marshes, sand bars and other wave impediments.
"Simply put, there was available data that was ignored to be ultra-conservative," Amato said in the letter. "Unfortunately, this ultra-conservative data has a very real and negative impact on our residents."
"Our residents are being asked to make life decisions predicted on a map we know is inaccurate and insurance rates that forecast dire impacts," he said.
South Seaside Park resident James Fulcomer - who is also the Berkeley Board of Education President - urged council members to pass a resolution to "put pressure" on Christie to do more to oppose the advisory base flood elevations.
"The bay (Barnegat Bay) is too small and to shallow to generate such wave action," Fulcomer told the council. "I think the pressure has to be put on the governor. It's up to us to persuade him in the only way possible to fix the damage FEMA has given us. It's just a big money grab by FEMA and the flood insurance industry."
The council agreed and passed the resolution unanimously. Councilman L. Thomas Grosse was absent.