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Federal Officials Say Uniform Rebuilding Standards Necessary After Sandy

4-4-13

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

In order to better protect communities and infrastructure from future storms, flooding and climate change federal officials say a uniform rebuilding standard is needed.

“What this will mean is that when a family goes to rebuild a home that’s been severely damaged, so more than 50 percent of the market value of the home has to be spent — if it’s a $100,000 home they’re spending more than $50,000 on the rebuilding, they’re using federal money. Community development block grant money, FEMA money, whatever it might be. What they will need to do is elevate that home to one foot above the flood level, the 100-year flood level that’s set by these new flood maps,” said Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

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This is the same standard many communities, including the entire state of New Jersey, have already adopted. But this isn’t a one size fits all model.

“Communities that use FEMA’s public assistance funding to rehabilitate structures can meet the standard by elevating or — where that’s not possible — by flood-proofing structures to that same height. For example, by moving boilers or other mechanicals above this elevation or sealing them if they can’t be moved,” Donovan said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the common sense guideline that will protect infrastructure like the Amtrak substation which was damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

“We believe there’ll be another storm and we’re also saying that when there is another storm, there’ll be a new standard so people don’t have to go through the same heartache and headache and backache it’s taken to rebuild because the new standard hopefully will alleviate the kind of damage that accrued.”

Federal officials say rebuilding stronger and smarter will help protect investments, keep flood insurance premiums from skyrocketing and give some measure of certainty during the rebuilding process.