U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent the following letter today to Michael Dabney, Director of the Mitigation Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in support of residents who have been adversely affected by the expansion of flood zones in the Bayshore area of Monmouth County. The New Jersey congressman joined the appeal that was filed by Monmouth County on behalf of the county and its homeowners and has requested that FEMA immediately halt continuation of the new flood maps.
September 9, 2008
Michael Dabney, Director
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
26 Federal Plaza, 13th Floor
New York, NY 10278
Dear Mr. Dabney:
I join the appeal and protest of the Flood Insurance Study report and the Flood Insurance Rate Maps filed by the County of Monmouth on behalf of the county and the 1,408 homeowners in the Bayshore region that have been adversely affected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) actions in this respect. This appeal and protest was filed on September 8, 2008 by Special Monmouth County Counsel Gil D. Messina.
I am outraged by FEMA's failure to adequately consult with the residents of Monmouth County and am deeply concerned by the myriad of legal violations committed by FEMA. I fully support the legal arguments in the Monmouth County protest. The grievous oversights committed by FEMA have resulted in a violation of resident's Fifth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. As the Monmouth County appeal outlines, FEMA created base flood elevations without the requisite community consultation outlined by law. Furthermore, FEMA did not carry out the necessary consultations with appropriate officials in the community, nor did it fully inform officials of the responsibilities placed on them by the program, relevant administrative procedures conducted by the organization, or the community's roles in establishing evaluations.
Additionally, I join with Monmouth County in questioning the lack of consultation in creating and modifying Base Flood Elevations (BFE's) for the coastal and inland waterways. Here again, the failure to communicate with appropriate officials was unjustified. More importantly, by FEMA not fulfilling its legal duty, it greatly limited access to timely information for Bayshore residents and government officials who would have been in a position to mitigate and/or correct any perceived deficiency in shore protection structures relevant to this matter.
The whole process of disclosure, from beginning to end, was rushed and biased, leaving many residents in affected areas irate due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the impact these decisions would have on their community. Instead of an appropriate and sufficient legal process, my constituents were forced to submit protests within a 90 day period. This is a wholly unreasonable time frame given the circumstances and types of information they will need to produce to clarify their standing under the proposed Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
Furthermore, I am concerned about the analysis leading FEMA to deem the levee in the Bayshore area no longer protective. In November 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers reported the effectiveness of the levee to withstand a 150 year storm. Moreover, FEMA's own January 11th FIS report found that the levee system could withstand a 100 and 500 year storm stating it "provides protection for the entire length of shorelines." As the Monmouth Country protest clearly notes, this certification was deleted from the May 9th 2008 FIS report despite using similar tables of statistics in both the January 2008 and May 2008 report. How could the levee be safe in November, but months later be considered dangerous?
My concerns relating to FEMA's methodology and analysis are not limited to the safety of the Bayshore levee. I am also concerned with the methodology employed by FEMA in the updating of the Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The data used by FEMA is insufficient and calls into question the accuracy of the flood hazard zone boundaries.
FEMA is also in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under NEPA, FEMA is required to create and share an environmental impact statement (EIS) before taking significant federal action. FEMA's changes are significant and will affect the quality of the human environment. Though NEPA requires an environmental impact statement and an environmental assessment if an agency is implementing considerable changes, FEMA failed to prepare either.
Given these significant concerns I respectfully request that your organization immediately halt continuation of the new flood maps. FEMA must reassess the maps through sound methodology, work with the local community and elected representatives, and comply with all laws including a comprehensive environmental assessment. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Frank Pallone, Jr.
MEMBER OF CONGRESS