Despite a report that suggested Lacey Township has one of the worst FEMA ratings for flood preparation, the township was ready, Mayor Mark Dykoff said.
According to the USA Today analysis, Lacey Township "ignored federal incentives" to reduce flood damage, "even as they have been flooded repeatedly." This inaction may lead to extra costs to taxpayers for disaster relief, higher premiums for those with federal flood insurance and lost discounts for property owners.
“I don’t have an explanation at this point in time,” Dykoff said of why Lacey would disregard federal incentives. “The proof is in the pudding.”
Compared to some communities that were completely devastated by Hurricane Sandy, Lacey fared well, he said.
“We fared so much better because of the preparation we did,” he said. “I feel we followed proper protocol with the county… we did the best we could. We still have people suffering, homeless and without power.”
The township utilized bulkheads to mitigate flooding in some areas, he said. Preparation was done to the drainage system and the lakes were lowered.
More than 100 municipalities that were declared a federal emergency after Hurricane Sandy struck received poor ratings under a program that rewards those towns for trying to minimize flood damage, the analysis said.
Through that program, approximately 1,000 municipalities across the country have received discounts of 10 percent or more, USA Today found.
In addition to Lacey, Barnegat, Sea Bright and Ocean Township took either minimal or no flood-prevention actions, receiving the worst insurance ratings. Those communities alone have more than 6,000 insured properties worth $1.4 billion that have sustained major flooding damage over the years, the analysis shows. Since 1978, property owners in those municipalities have filed 2,500 claims against FEMA’s flood-insurance program, receiving $26 million in payments.
The USA Today article noted that towns often ignore federal flood-mitigation plans "because they fear restricting development and don't want to spend the money."
“It has to do with when you apply for grants,” Dykoff said. “So much is put into applying for those grants, it’s not worth it…we fared, head and shoulders, better than (other municipalities) did.”
Other municipalities that received the worst FEMA or a “10” rating included Tuckerton. Point Pleasant Beach, Point Pleasant and Toms River received a “9.” Seaside Park received an “8.” Seaside Heights had no rating and Mantoloking had one of the best ratings at “6.” For more on the ratings, see USA Today’s interactive map.
Years ago Berkeley and Stafford Townships sustained extreme damage after a major rain event, Dykoff said.
“Their townships had been devastated because of a lack of planning,” Dykoff said. “Is there room for improvement? Yes, there is. We’ll look into it.”
Barnegat Mayor Al Cirulli told Patch that he would "match up with any town in this state," in terms of preparedness for Sandy. "We had our shelters open, did our evacuation. No fatalities, no serious injuries. The rest was on nature."
He said early estimates are the township "lost one home" on the bayfront, and others need some work. But Cirulli added, "when you live on a lagoon, and the tide comes in over 9 feet, of course there are going to be problems."
Dykoff could not say how many homes were lost throughout Lacey Township’s waterfront communities as a result of Sandy’s storm surge. An evaluation is being done now.
The waterfront communities such as the Forked River Beach area did sustain “devastating flood damage,” he said.
“I’m more worried about getting back on our feet. Our concern right now is to get people’s power back on,” Dykoff said. “Then we’ll do a reassessment of what took place and our actions.”
Since Sandy, Dykoff has been working with FEMA to get residents the help that they need, he said. FEMA representatives have been in town.
“The amount of people who applied for FEMA is kind of low. They need to begin the process,” Dykoff said.
Residents can visit www.disasterassistance.gov, apply via smartphone at m.fema.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.