Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA) in Monmouth County has been awarded a $2.377 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help in the rebuilding of its boardwalk destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, Congressman Chris Smith announced today.
The approved federal support, which comes after Smith and others worked with the Association as they appealed two previous denials, includes construction work for the outflow at Fletcher Lake, replacing decking, numerous sets of stairs, hundreds of wooden piles and wood posts, an access ramp, removal of destroyed boardwalk and debris, and thousands of feet of railing and electrical wire in conduit.
“I am pleased that FEMA has made the decision to invest critical federal resources in the repair and reconstruction of the Sandy-ravaged boardwalk in Ocean Grove,” said Smith. “Winning a reversal of previous denials has cleared the way for federal support to flow to the project enabling the boardwalk to reopen sometime this summer.”
The work is underway and is expected to be completed by late June.
FEMA originally deemed OGCMA ineligible for federal assistance as a private, nonprofit entity. Last year Smith helped lead an effort with OGCMA leadership, Governor Chris Christie’s office, and in particular, NJ Sandy “czar,” Mark Ferzan, Neptune Township and Ocean Grove’s state legislators—State Senator Jennifer Beck, Assemblywomen Caroline Casagrande, and Mary Pat Angelini to petition the federal agency in Washington to reverse its decision.
Following several discussions and meetings in Washington, including a pivotal June session in Smith’s Washington, D.C. office with FEMA officials, FEMA agreed to allow Ocean Grove’s leaders to present an oral argument on second appeal in Washington. In the appeal process the OGCMA—the non-profit organization which owns the boardwalk—demonstrated that it has a unique history in helping with government services in Ocean Grove. They demonstrated further that the boardwalk is a vital economic artery for businesses in Ocean Grove and neighboring towns, and is also a heavily-traveled thoroughfare used by police and emergency services to access to the beaches, and connects Neptune to the towns of Asbury Park to the north and Bradley Beach to the south.
In December 2013, FEMA announced its reversal and deemed the Ocean Grove boardwalk an eligible facility for federal public assistance. On February 4, 2014, Ocean Grove received final notice that a federal grant for the construction of the boardwalk would be available.
Smith also worked to persuade FEMA to approve a 90 percent federal share for FEMA funding going to all Jersey public assistance programs that pay for cleanup and reconstruction costs—instead of the initially planned 75 percent.
“Fortunately, this FEMA award for Ocean Grove represents 90 percent of the cost of this work, while the CMA cost share is only 10 percent,” Smith said. “Had FEMA not raised the cost-share rate from 75 to 90 percent, the added cost to Ocean Grove would have been nearly $400,000 more.”