Report Claims N.J. Homes at Risk Due to Outdated Flood Maps

May 30, 2007

Outdated maps that don’t take into account years of development are leaving many northern New Jersey residents and builders unaware of actual flooding risks, experts say.

Some of the maps of towns along the Ramapo, Pompton and Pequannock rivers date back to the Eisenhower administration. They are produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I’ve found throughout the state many maps are 50 or 60 years old,” Drew Fishman, president-elect of the New Jersey Association of Realtors, told The Sunday Record of Bergen County. “The accuracy is questionable at best.”

The result is that people may be more vulnerable than they realize — until a storm comes along like last year’s nor’easter that caused millions in damage.

“It doesn’t reflect current conditions, particularly when you’re talking about maps that go back 10, 20, 30 years ago,” said Rutgers geography professor Robert Hordon, who has studied New Jersey flooding for more than two decades.

Paul Weberg, a senior engineer in FEMA’s New York office, defended the quality of the maps, but added that development over the years can contribute to increased flooding.

“Development basically eats away at flood plain areas,” Weberg said. “Instead of having parkland or open space that could absorb some of the rainfall, now you have concrete streets and homes where there’s nowhere for the water to seep into.”

The maps show which areas would be affected by a so-called 100-year flood and are used in decisions that affect homeowners, such as how high to raise new or renovated structures.

FEMA redrew flood zones in northern Bergen County after Tropical Storm Floyd caused $350 million in damage in 1999, and found flood plains had changed dramatically in some areas. It also reassessed parts of the Delaware River in the last few years, and more studies are planned in the next few years.


Information from: The Record of Bergen County,

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