Posts Tagged ‘Mayor Randy Bishop’

By Charles Layton

The Camp Meeting Association’s hopes for receiving federal storm damage funds are based in part on the argument that our boardwalk and dunes provide more than just recreation – they protect the town against disastrous flooding.

Ralph delCampo, the Camp Meeting Association’s interim administrator, said in an interview on Friday that Ocean Grove’s boardwalk is “an enhanced protection to the town to keep the ocean at bay… It provides a critical function to Ocean Grove.”

In a separate interview, Neptune Township Mayor Randy Bishop said he thought the dunes, in particular, played a protective role during Hurricane Sandy. “I would hope the rebuilding of the dunes would be seen as a [storm] mitigation issue, because I believe the dunes proved their value during Hurricane Sandy,” he said.

If FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) sees it that way, Bishop and delCampo suggest, the agency may be more inclined to approve all or part of the Camp Meeting’s request for reimbursement.

DelCampo and Bishop also both said that the Camp Meeting received FEMA funds for boardwalk repairs following the 1992 northeaster. They would like for that precedent to apply in the present case.

Although Bishop seemed less than certain as to how FEMA might rule on the present application, delCampo exuded optimism: “We feel very confident that we will eventually get FEMA money.” (He made no prediction as to how much.)

DelCampo said a section of the Ocean Grove dunes – at the north end, from the pavilion to Seaview Avenue – is reinforced by a rubble wall underneath. “Those dunes didn’t move an inch” during the hurricane, he said. “Now look at the dunes in Bradley Beach. They all moved, they all got destroyed.” Bradley Beach’s dunes were built on top of piled-up Christmas trees rather than a solid rubble wall.

DelCampo also said the Ocean Grove boardwalk has retaining walls imbedded in the sand beside it, which act as flood barriers. “On the surface it looks like it’s just another boardwalk, but it’s more than meets the eye,” he said.

Because the Camp Meeting is a private non-profit organization, FEMA’s rules for federal relief are more restrictive for it than they are for governmental bodies. For instance, local governments can be reimbursed for damage to recreational facilities; private non-profits are not usually eligible for that, although they used to be, prior to 1993, when the rules were changed. It would seem, therefore, that Ocean Grove’s boardwalk would need to qualify as more than just a recreational feature. The FEMA rules do allow for reimbursement to private non-profits for “facilities that provide essential governmental services.” These, say the rules, can include “health and safety services of a governmental nature.”

It is unclear whether dunes or a boardwalk owned by the Camp Meeting can qualify for funding if they are considered to be vital flood protection. But if that is what determines FEMA’s decision, it is hard to see how the damage to the fishing pier could be justified on that basis. Earlier this year, FEMA turned down a request to fund repairs to the pier from damage by Hurricane Irene.

DelCampo said he expected FEMA to reimburse for damages at its normal rate of 75 percent, not at the 90-percent rate being sought by Governor Christie. “We’re trying to be realistic,” delCampo said. He said the Camp Meeting’s current estimates of $2.5 million in damages to the boardwalk and $750,000 to the pier are “very preliminary.”

The possibilities for reimbursement span a spectrum, from full FEMA reimbursement to no reimbursement at all. FEMA could decide, for instance, that the dunes are eligible but not the boardwalk.

However it goes, delCampo said the Camp Meeting “is absolutely committed to rebuilding the boardwalk” by the summer of 2014. He has been reading comments by some readers on this website who have grown impatient with what they consider the Camp Meeting’s inaction. He said that, in fact, the Camp Meeting has been writing funding applications, consulting with engineers, and researching the best ways to rebuild the boardwalk and dunes, based on the experience of Ocean Grove and other Jersey Shore communities. (It has been suggested, for instance, that the boardwalk might be more effective as a flood mitigation structure if it were relocated at a different distance from the ocean.)

DelCampo also said the Camp Meeting is seeking financial support from the Ocean Grove community and from other organizations.

“All of that is in the works,” he said, “but it takes time to do it right. We just ask people to be patient.”

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