For their part, Sayreville officials speculate the reason residents of the Old Bridge part of town haven’t received buyout offers so far may be because they didn’t experience enough substantial damage or because not enough people from the neighborhood applied.
In response, residents have been knocking on one another’s doors, rounding up even more support. And they said the latest revisions to the FEMA flood maps, which put their neighborhood at greater risk of future flooding, could help their cause.
Boornazian said the DEP plans to return to Sayreville at some point to announce a second round of buyouts. The department is currently equipped to make offers to about 50 homeowners a month, but that could increase to about 150 in the near future. The 54-step process means it could take a while, though, so residents need to be patient, he said. That’s a problem for homeowners anxious for answers and eager to move out of temporary housing. Plus, the late-summer storm season is quickly approaching.
Before Sandy, the Blue Acres program had a modest budget of only about $12 million a year. Although the post-storm infusion of $300 million of federal relief money is a sizable increase, it’s still a drop in the bucket, given the demand for the buyouts and the scale of the overall problem.
“That’s a real news flash,” Governor Christie said at a press conference in South River last month, responding to the concern that many residents of flood-prone areas will ultimately be unable to get buyouts.
“Just so we’re clear to everybody, I never promised, nor am I promising today that we’re going to buy out every home that ever got water in the basement. That’s not what we’re gonna do. We’re going to buy out the neighborhoods that got most severely damaged after Sandy.”
But determining which neighborhoods were the most severely damaged is a tricky business. In addition, buyout efforts so far have focused on more inland areas -- like along the Passaic and Raritan rivers -- but environmentalists say the need is just as great along the coast. Tough decisions will likely have to be made in the coming months, and even those calling for more buyouts admit that unless the budget is dramatically increased, there are no easy solutions.