Boardwalk destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in Lavallette, NJ.The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) recently issued its answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the emergency amendments to New Jersey’s Flood Hazard Area Control Act Rules. The emergency regulations were signed into law by New Jersey Governor Christie on January 24, 2013, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The new regulations adopt the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (“FEMA”) updated Advisory Base Flood Elevation (“ABFEs”) maps as the rebuilding standard for the entire state. The rules set minimum elevation standards for the reconstruction of houses and buildings in areas that are in danger of flooding. Because the rules are complex and so many officials and the public are affected, NJDEP issued the FAQs explaining the benefits of the amendments, who is covered, and tips for getting started.

Highlights of the rule amendments include the following:

1) Adopts height and construction requirements in FEMA’s Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps as a state standard for reconstruction.

2) Allows property owners who rebuild to the ABFEs (plus one additional foot, as has been required by the New Jersey Flood Hazard Area Control Act since 2007) to do so via Permit By Rule, thus, eliminating the need for property owners to apply for DEP’s Flood Hazard Area permits, saving them substantial time and money.

3) Allows “wet floodproofing” for non-residential buildings, whereby a building may flood, but will structurally withstand the water, as an alternative to requiring elevations or dry floodproofing.

The regulations will have dramatic ramifications on flood insurance premiums. By way of illustration, if a property owner currently in an "A zone" at 4 feet below the BFE elevation is reclassified as a higher threat "V zone" and takes no action, that property will be subject to an approximate annual premium of up to $31,000 because they will be rated at a higher risk. If the same owner were to rebuild to the suggested BFE and appropriate construction standards, the annual premium would be approximately $7,000. If that owner were to rebuild 2 feet above the BFE with the construction standards for their new zone, the annual premium would be approximately $3,500. Under this illustration, the property owner could save up to $27,500 annually.

Hurricane Sandy had an unprecedented impact on New Jersey residents. Developers and property owners, particularly those affected by the hurricane, should take advantage of NJDEP’s guidance and better familiarize themselves with the new rules. Adhering to the regulations will help protect the property from flood damage in the future and help save on significant costs.

Sandro G. Ocasio is an Associate in the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.