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Stop FEMA Now Founder Says New Flood Maps Is a Good Start

6-17-13

FEMA’s revised flood maps which came out today have thousands of property owners in Atlantic, Hudson, Monmouth and Ocean counties relieved that they no longer have to worry about raising their houses on pilings. The strongest critic of FEMA”s flood maps prior to today’s news had been the group Stop FEMA Now. The group’s founder George Kasimos told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider the revision is a good starting point, but that there is still a lot more work to do on behalf of property owners.

The previous maps, according to Kasimos, just didn’t make any sense.

“Those homes that were in the iconic picture of the Mantoloking Bridge were in an A zone. They got swept away to the bay. People protected by a barrier island, protected by lagoons, protected by a shallow Barnegat Bay a mile up a stream are in a V zone,” described Kasimos.

The cost differential between raising a house from a foot to the “dreaded’ Velocity (“V”) standard is $100,000, according to Kasimos.

“The V zone … those are the people that have to not only raise their home, [but] remove their foundation, move their home, [and] put it on pilings,” he explained. “The cost to raise it on a V zone is about $150,000, [as opposed to] ‘$50,000 [in an A zone].

Kasimos expressed frustration at the lack of communication with FEMA, even though a FEMA representative was called to the state from Washington, D.C.

“If Gov. Christie is bringing someone from FEMA, they should be answering our questions, we [were] getting word out to members and really nothing nothing [was] coming out,” Kasimos complained.

The fact that FEMA revised its flood maps is owed to political pressure, says Kasimos.

“We have 10,000 members in our group, but we have a coalition of about 10 states and we have a Stop FEMA actually in Louisiana and had a campaign where we called all our legislators — New York legislators, New Jersey legislators, Florida legislators and basically said, ‘hey, we got to start changing stuff,’” said Kasimos. One lawmaker his group called out to was California congresswoman Maxine Waters who sponsored a bill, says Kasimos.

While the revision to the flood maps is welcome, Kasimos says his group is working towards changes in other areas, like flood insurance.

“We want flood insurance to go down significantly. Second homeowners aren’t getting any help whatsoever right now,” said Kasimos. “Even if you are relieved or feel you’ve been helped by being reduced from a V zone to an A zone, … 200,000 homes have to come up with $50,000 to raise their home or they’re still going to be paying five to ten thousand dollars [in] additional flood insurance premiums.”