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27 Jan 2017

Pt. Pleasant contractor accused of $1M Sandy fraud

NEWARK – A father-and-son home improvement company in Point Pleasant bilked dozens of homeowners out of more than $1 million in federal superstorm Sandy relief aid, by taking money for work that was substandard, never performed or abandoned, a civil complaint filed by the state Consumer Affairs Division alleges.

Contractors Paul Zaidinski Sr. and Paul Zaidinski Jr. and their Point Pleasant-based company, Shore House Lifters, are alleged to have engaged in “unconscionable consumer practices’’ that included:

  • Improperly disconnecting water and sewer lines.
  • Improperly repairing a front staircase and spilling concrete on a back deck and driveway.
  • Failing to complete home elevation projects, resulting in some homes failing inspections and preventing the consumers from moving back in.
  • Abandoning home elevation projects while the homes were raised on temporary supports, which deprived consumers of access to their homes for lengthy time periods and required them to finish the work themselves or hire other contractors at additional expense.
  • Failing to provide refunds required by law when consumers with certain Sandy relief funds cancel contracts for failure to start or complete work.

READ: Toms River hotelier jailed 3 years for Sandy scam

The Division of Consumer Affairs received 51 complaints against Shore House Lifters. Of those, 45 were from consumers who lost a total of $1.12 million in federal relief funds, according to the civil complaint filed in Superior Court in Ocean County. There were six complaints from consumers who did not receive  federal Sandy relief aid.

The Consumer Affairs Division also filed a complaint in Atlantic County against George Rex and his Pleasantville-based companies, Atlantic Coast House Lifting and George Rex Construction LLC. That complaint also alleges shoddy or incomplete work, causing six recipients of federal relief to lose $277,100.

EXCLUSIVE: Sandy, home builders and broken promises

The civil complaints bring to seven the number of home improvement contractors charged by the Consumer Affairs Division with committing fraud on victims of Sandy, which ravaged the Shore area in October 2012.

“Long after the floodwaters have receded, we remain committed to holding accountable each and every contractor who financially exploited the victims of this catastrophic storm,” Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said in a news release announcing the complaints against the contracting companies.

READ: Poor health means no jail for Sandy fraudster

“With every civil action we file, we are reinforcing the message that we will not allow unscrupulous contractors to prey on New Jersey residents, especially those struggling in the wake of a  natural disaster,” he said.

READ: Suit: Sandy contractor abandoned Sandy jobs

The state is seeking restitution, fees and civil penalties from the contractors named in the complaints, and revocation of their contractor registrations. The state also is seeking to permanently bar the defendants from ever owning or operating home-improvement businesses in the state.

Kathleen Hopkins: 732-643-4202; Khopkins@app.com 

 

http://www.app.com/story/news/local/brick-point-pleasant/point-pleasant-beach/2017/01/26/sandy-fraud-alleged-against-pt-pleasant-contractor/97086052/

13 Jan 2017

House raising, booming since Sandy, a dangerous and expensive industry

    • Property owners along New Jersey’s coast have had their homes raised to avoid flood waters like those that damaged homes during Hurricane Sandy.

      But the home-elevation industry, which became a booming business after the 2012 storm, is wrought with problems, ranging from safety issues to funding delays that put projects on hold and left some homes literally up in the air.

      Before October 2012, home elevation was a niche business, said Steve Hauck, owner of SJ Hauck House Movers in Egg Harbor Township.

      The industry has since swelled, buoyed by federal money and stricter regulations on properties near the water, but house lifting is a dangerous, expensive and cumbersome process.

      Just last month, one of Hauck’s employees, Jonathan Fitzick, 24, of Ocean City, was seriously injured after a house he was lifting in Wildwood partially collapsed.

      The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident, which left Fitzick with a broken leg and head cuts.

      In 2013, OSHA fined a contractor $8,000 for three serious violations after three workers were injured when a house collapsed in Little Egg Harbor Township.

      “It’s definitely safety-sensitive work,” said Tre McAllister, owner of another home elevation contractor, McAllister Building Group in Somers Point. “The insurance that we have to have is so expensive, so that says it all.”

      Another obstacle for contractors and homeowners is dealing with the state agencies that process the federal money allocated for home elevation projects.

      McAllister said about 70 percent of house lifting projects his company does are related to Sandy recovery, and thus eligible for funding through state programs, such as the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program.

      Dealing with the program, which is managed by the state Department of Community Affairs, is “awful, absolutely awful,” said McAllister, because of delayed payments and red tape.

      “It’s hard to function as a contractor when you can’t get paid,” said Hauck, who said his company has lifted more than 1,000 homes since Sandy.

      “The way the program was designed — I don’t think it worked the way they envisioned it to work,” he added.

      Susan Marticek agrees. She works with residents affected by the storm as executive director of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group.

      “The state grant was never set up to be the major part of people’s budget,” Marticek said.

      Some homeowners get stuck with their properties hoisted on cribbing for weeks or months, waiting for money to come in and work to be completed.

      “They get stuck in their recovery, and they don’t have enough money to finish their project,” Marticek said. “We’re now in year five, and, for a lot of people, they’re at a breaking point.”

      “I’m fearful we will have a lot of projects that were started but not completed,” she added.

      She also wonders about the safety of having houses on cribbing for long periods of time. Last year, a house on cribbing in Long Island tumbled over while the homeowner was waiting for funding to finish a home elevation project.

      “Your house is very vulnerable when it’s up on that cribbing,” Maticek said. “With the bad storms, everybody gets a little nervous.”

      The application period for RREM ended in 2013, but 2,622 homes are still in the process of being elevated, said Lisa Ryan, strategic communications director for the Sandy Recovery Division of Community Affairs.

      Nearly 2,000 of those remaining projects are in Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties.

      “DCA is diligently working to help each of the remaining applicants complete construction and close out of the program,” Ryan wrote in an email to the Press of Atlantic City, adding the department regularly provides support to those enrolled in the program.

      So far, about $336 million has been spent through the program on completing more than 4,000 home-elevation projects.

      McAllister said the state is not always to blame for stalled construction. Sometimes, contractors misuse funds, or homeowners are paid by the state but don’t use the money to pay their contractors, he said.

      Marticek suggested inexperience with major storms may be to blame for problems with house lifting.

      “To me, this is New Jersey’s first time at the rodeo,” she said.

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      Contact: 609-272-7411

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      jtomczuk@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressTomczuk

 

12 Jan 2017

Kane In Your Corner: FEMA clawbacks an added insult to Superstorm Sandy victims

UNION BEACH – Thousands of New Jersey families, their homes damaged or destroyed by Sandy, are now being ordered to repay part of their disaster assistance grants and a Kane In Your Corner investigation Wednesday found the rules determining the paybacks sometimes don’t seem fair. But homeowner advocates say those who get recoupment letters should not automatically repay and sometimes can keep the disputed funds.

Pat Weber’s home in Union Beach looks fine today, but it was a muddy mess immediately after Sandy, flooded by 4 feet of water. With the help of a Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) grant, Weber was able to repair and elevate her home. But in October, the state, acting on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sent her a letter demanding repayment of $32,000 in grant funds. The primary issue: Weber had qualified for “increased cost of compliance” flood insurance, which the government considers a “duplication of benefits.”

Weber considers the clawback unfair. “I paid for [the coverage] for 32 years on [my] flood insurance,” she says, adding that without the ICC funds, “I would not have been able to complete the job.”

It’s a similar story to the one told by Fred Schaffer, of Little Egg Harbor, now being ordered to repay $115,000 in RREM funds. In addition to the grant, he took out a loan from the Small Business Administration. Like Weber, Schaffer insists he needed both to get back in his home.

If that’s true, and both Weber and Schaffer can prove it, they may be able to successfully dispute the clawback effort, federal officials say.

“We’re required to do a duplication-of-benefits check,” FEMA spokesman Bill MacDonald explains. “To make sure there are not two funding sources paying for the same thing.” However, MacDonald says, if a family “can provide receipts that there was no duplication of benefits, then that money would not be recouped.”

Homeowner advocates say many of the issues could have been prevented if federal officials had simply communicated from the beginning.

Many Sandy homeowners “did everything right in life,” says Sue Marticek of the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group. “They lived, they paid their taxes, their insurance, their flood insurance for decades, and here they are, not able to get through because of the real disaster, and the real disaster is the bureaucracy that happened after.”

Weber, for example, received a RREM grant of only $120,000, less than the maximum. She might have been able to avert the recoupment effort if, instead of accepting $30,000 in supplemental flood insurance, she had simply applied for more grant money.

FEMA’s McDonald admits communication could have been better. “That is a lesson learned,” he says. “We are going to have to improve our outreach”.

But homeowners still take issue with a system in which the government hands out assistance and then asks for it back. “I did what they told me to do,” Weber says. “I should be finished.”

11 Jan 2017

Kane In Your Corner: Superstorm Sandy victims told to repay federal grant money

January 11, 2017 8:05 PM

LITTLE EGG HARBOR – Some New Jersey homeowners are being ordered to repay tens of thousands of dollars in Sandy grant money after they accepted government-backed loans that the Federal Emergency Management Agency encouraged them to apply for, and a FEMA spokesman promises Kane In Your Corner the agency will work harder to ensure that homeowners understand the often-confusing rules.

Fred and Marjorie Schaffer’s home in Little Egg Harbor was damaged so badly during Sandy that it could not be saved. Thanks in part to a $150,000 Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) grant, they were able to move into a new modular home. When the work was finished, the state of New Jersey even listed the family as a “success story” on its Sandy Recovery website.

But Fred Schaffer doesn’t feel like his story is much of a success. The state recently sent him a letter, on behalf of FEMA, demanding that he repay $115,000 of his RREM grant. Schaffer also accepted a loan from the Small Business Administration, which the federal government considers a “duplication of benefits.” The rules are intended to make sure homeowners only get the help they need and don’t profit from disaster relief, but Schaffer doesn’t understand why they apply to him.

“How can it be a duplication of benefits?” he wonders. “I didn’t get (the SBA loan) for free. I’m paying it back every month for the next 30 years.”

Sue Marticek with the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group says she’s heard the same complaint from many homeowners. “Many don’t understand to this day how getting a loan from the SBA is considered a duplication of benefits,” she says.

Some homeowners are also upset because they believed they were just doing what FEMA wanted. In the weeks after the storm, FEMA personnel around the state advised Sandy victims to fill out SBA loan applications. FEMA spokesman Bill MacDonald says the advice was good, since the applications also served as the first step in the grant process. He says, unfortunately, some homeowners were either not told or did not understand that if they actually accepted a loan, the proceeds would count against any future grant money.

“I understand that is confusing to people,” MacDonald says, adding that FEMA understands “we are going to have to improve our outreach.”

For Fred Schaffer, now having to repay $115,000 in grant money, that’s not much comfort.

On Thursday, Kane In Your Corner takes a closer look at “duplication of benefit” rules and what a homeowner can do when a recoupment letter arrives.

 

http://newjersey.news12.com/news/kane-in-your-corner-superstorm-sandy-victims-told-to-repay-federal-grant-money-1.12940519

20 Dec 2016

Sandy foreclosure bill heads to governor

TRENTON — A bill that would protect Sandy victims for foreclosure is on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk after the measure was approved Tuesday by the state Senate.

The bill, co-sponsored by state Senators Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, and Brian Stack, D-Hudson, had already passed the Assembly earlier this year.

MORE:  Brick relief center to reopen in new location

The bill would offer temporary foreclosure protection to Sandy victims who have been approved for assistance through the state’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) and Low- and Moderate- Income (LMI) rebuilding programs, or those who have received rental assistance from FEMA as a result of property damaged caused by the storm.

Sandy victims would have to apply to the state Department of Community Affairs for foreclosure protection.

The bill has been praised by Sandy advocates, including the New Jersey Organizing Project, who say that the state’s hardest-hit areas have only partially recovered from the storm. Many homeowners are still struggling to rebuild, advocates say.

MORE SANDY:  New $8 million Berkeley park to reopen in 2018

The mortgage forbearance period would be either a year after a certificate of occupancy for recovery and rebuilding program work has been issued, or July 1, 2019, whichever is earlier. For properties in foreclosure, it would be 10 days after a sheriff’s sale.

“The process of securing state and federal recovery funds is long and complex,” Beck said in a prepared statement. “It’s been four years and yet we still have 3,200 Sandy victims eager to complete elevation and construction projects, including some that have just begun.

SURVEY:  Sandy survey seeks truth about victims’ experiences

“Providing a pathway to prevent foreclosure will protect families who are struggling to fund both a mortgage and rent from losing the very home they have spent years trying to rebuild,” Beck said. “It’s the right thing to do and I look forward to seeing the bill signed into law as swiftly as possible.”

The legislation would also direct the DCA commissioner to notify Sandy-impacted families of their eligibility for foreclosure protections and post eligibility information on the department’s website.

The commissioner must also notify courts and mortgage lenders of individuals who are eligible for such protections.

The bill also contains protections for Sandy victims who have experienced delays in the RREM and LMI programs.

RELATED: Christie vetoes homeowner foreclosure bill

DCA would be reqquired to extend the completion deadline for projects funded RREM and LMI for applicants who can demonstrate the delay was the fault of their builder or due to delays by the DCA in approving the builder doing the project, according to Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, who sponsored the Assembly’s version of the legislation.

If an application for aid under the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program (TBRA), LMI, or RREM program is denied, the DCA would have to provide the applicant with an explanation for the denial, and an explanation for ways to remedy the application.

“As if having your life disrupted by Mother Nature was not enough, these homeowners were failed by the very entities tasked with their recovery,” Houghtaling, D-Monmouth, said in a prepared statement. “These provisions can help cut the red-tape they’ve been dealing with and finally get them back on track.”

Jean Mikle: (732) 643-4050, jmikle@gannettnj.com

, @jeanmikle

 

http://www.app.com/story/news/local/monmouth-county/sandy-recovery/2016/12/20/sandy-foreclosure-bill-heads-governor/95661080/

17 Dec 2016

Superstorm Sandy support group from Long Island brings holiday cheer to children of Louisiana flood victims

Santa’s helpers traveled a long distance to make a special stop in Baton Rouge this weekend, though not from quite so far away as the North Pole.

A New York-based nonprofit group created to help Superstorm Sandy flood victims in Long Island decided to play the Santa helper role for flood victims in Louisiana’s capital city this Christmas season.

The group, Adopt a House, assisted by a social media networking group, Sandy Support Massapequa Style, co-hosted a Christmas party on Saturday for 50 Baton Rouge children, ranging from 2 to 12 years old, whose families had been affected by the flooding in August.

The party, which took place at the LSU Hilltop Arboretum, featured holiday-themed crafts, face painting and, of course, a visit from Santa Claus.

Adopt a House is dedicated to supporting the Long Island community in rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which tore through the east coast in late October of 2012. Sandy Support Massapequa Style is a Facebook group of close to 900 members that has worked with Adopt a House in co-hosting events like the one held Saturday in Baton Rouge.

“We’re an organization that’s been dealing with Sandy up here in New York, so we totally understand what it’s like, especially that first Christmas,” Adopt a House executive director Michele Insinga said. “So we just wanted to give back to the community as others had given to us four years ago.”

Insinga said the party grew out of the organization’s involvement with a Louisiana-based Facebook group called “Adopt a Louisiana Family For Christmas!” The group invites sponsors to connect with and donate to flood victims.

Prior to hosting the party, Adopt a House connected with several families through the Facebook group and was able to send presents to 37 children.

Beth Henry, an Adopt a House volunteer and creator of Sandy Support Massapequa Style, played a big role in organizing the party. She said Adopt a House knew early on that it wanted to provide support for the affected families during the holiday season, but had just a week-and-a-half notice from a donor that its members would have the opportunity to host a party.

Making everything come together on such short notice, she said, was something of a “Christmas miracle.”

“This weekend four years ago, I was at a party like this for my girls when we lost our house after Hurricane Sandy,” Henry said. “It was really, really important for me to make this a great event because it’s all about paying it forward when we can.”

Baton Rouge resident Lisa LeDoux and her daughter Finley are just two of the many Louisianians who are still unable to move back into their homes. Their family has been displaced since Aug. 12, the day the flooding started, and LeDoux saw the Christmas party as a way to reward her daughter for “how big of a trooper she had been.”

“She’s been awesome throughout this whole process,” LeDoux said. “I saw that and I normally wouldn’t reach out to something like this, but thought she could use a great day, and it’s been perfect.”

The pair said their favorite part of the day was seeing Santa pulling up to the party in a red Ferrari decorated with holiday wreaths and toting his iconic bag of gifts.

A pair of elves decked out in red and white striped tights and colorful hats sang classic Christmas songs like “Santa Claus Is Coming to To Town” and “Jingle Bells” as they ushered the children to gather around Santa’s chair, where their gifts had been laid out.

One by one Santa called the kids up to receive a Christmas present, which had been individually purchased for them by the Adopt a House volunteers based on their Christmas lists. The gifts included sets of blocks and kits filled with markers and other art supplies.

Insinga said one of the main goals in throwing the party was to take the children out of their difficult situations for a day, giving them a chance to experience the holiday season even though their families might be dealing with serious financial burdens.

“Maybe their parents don’t have time to go bring them to go see Santa,” she said. “They may not have the money to give them this year because of the obvious reasons. But we just wanted them to have something so that they weren’t forgotten in the holiday season because this is what people did for us in that first year.”

  • BY ROSE VELAZQUEZ | Special to The Advocate

http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/article_ede036e2-c54c-11e6-b2c0-573caab143d3.html

16 Dec 2016

Contractor Charged For Scamming Individuals With Homes Damaged In Superstorm Sandy

OCEAN COUNTY, N.J. (CBS) — A New Jersey man is facing charges for scamming individuals who had their homes damaged during Superstorm Sandy. Charges against Jamie Lawson, 41, were announced on Friday.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato announced that a grand jury indicted Lawson, the owner of Lawson Renovations, L.L.C., DBA J&N Construction.

Authorities say Lawson took payment from 14 homeowners in Toms River and Brick Township and either did none of the work promised, or less than what was agreed to. They add that the money went toward vehicles and Lawson’s personal expenses.

The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office added that Lawson became a licensed home improvement contractor when he moved to New Jersey shortly after Superstorm Sandy hit. They say that Lawson obtained the license after misrepresenting himself on his application by failing to disclose criminal convictions in North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

Lawson has been charged with money laundering, theft by failure to make required disposition, tampering with public records and related charges.

Anyone who believes that they were defrauded by Lawson’s company are asked to contact the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732 929 2027

 

Contractor Charged For Scamming Individuals With Homes Damaged In Superstorm Sandy

02 Dec 2016

Four years after Superstorm Sandy, state and federal agencies to study back-bay flooding

New Jersey and federal agencies have announced a joint study to examine ways to combat flooding on the state’s back bays, which were where some of the worst flooding happened four years when Superstorm Sandy barreled into the shore.

The pain continues for many communities that were pummeled by the historic storm. Shore towns have watched as government agencies rushed to build sand dunes along beaches but failed to construct similar flood protection measures along the bay shores, in the areas between the mainland and barrier islands.

To many communities, the announced study by the state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is welcome — if years too late.

“This isn’t the first disaster in America,” said George Kasimos, whose Toms River home flooded during Sandy, at a public meeting Thursday. “As soon as that disaster came, within that first year, there should’ve been a plan.”

How it will work

The New Jersey Back Bays Study actually started in April after spinning off of a larger study of the entire North Atlantic Coast, which the Corps of Engineers began a year and a half after Sandy, said  J. Bailey Smith, the project manager who will oversee the back bay study.

DEP and Corps of Engineers will first analyze the physical features of the coast and compile flood probability data before identifying possible flood protection measures.

Those measures fall into four broad categories: changes to regional policies and the creation of new programs, structural measures such as bulkheads and levees, non-structural measures like buyouts and flood warning systems, and nature-based methods like reefs.

The study is expected to last three years and likely would not result in the construction of any new projects before its completion, officials said.

“This is a more complex issue and problem to address than, say, beach erosion. And it took a very long time to get where we are with beach erosion,” said Bill Dixon, the DEP’s director of coastal engineering.

“I see different methods being used in different areas” for the back bay study, he said.

Nonetheless, the Corps of Engineers’ Bailey said that does not mean that the state’s bay shores will remain completely vulnerable to flooding in the short term.

“We have a lot of similar, smaller projects that are ongoing and may be constructed in the next three to five years,” said Bailey.

The study will encompass 3,500 miles of bay shoreline in Burlington, Ocean, Atlantic, Cape May, and Monmouth Counties.

‘Caught with our pants down’

For Lacey Township resident Pat Doyle, back bay flooding is old hat. She welcomed the announcement but said the problem of bay flooding was nothing novel to residents who regularly cope with encroaching waters.

“We were caught with our pants down badly during Sandy,” said Doyle, “and we shouldn’t have been.”

Others in the audience during a public meeting Thursday night at Stockton University argued that the long delay in starting the three-year study will now be followed by another delay in starting construction on the flood protection projects recommended by the study.

“So, the true answer for most of the people in my neighborhood is this is being built for your children, because they won’t live long enough to see it?” asked Paul Jeffrey, president of the Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association. “That’s sad.”

Dixon, with DEP, said it would have been difficult for the state to embark on such an undertaking on its own. DEP and Corps of Engineers are splitting the costs of the back bay study.

He also claimed that authorities have not been ignoring the needs of back bay communities by largely focusing on flood protection projects on the oceanfront beaches. The reason for that, according to Dixon, was because the state identified oceanfront flooding as a major problem long before it realized back bay flooding also required attention.

“Studies like this [for ocean flooding] were implemented back in the 90s. So the reason why these projects are being implemented now on the oceanfront is we’ve gotten through all this process.”
Dixon also said the state was actively trying to minimize the effect of bay shore flooding by, for example, buying out residents living on the Delaware and Raritan Bays through the Green Acres program.

Kasimos, the Toms River homeowner who also founded the group Stop FEMA Now after Sandy, said the announcement was another in a long line of government failures on this issue.

“If there were lobbyists in here and there were big funders in here, this would’ve gotten done already,” said Kasimos.

“Look, government is inefficient by nature, I get that. But the response since Sandy — state and federal —  is piss-poor.”

 

http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/99368-four-years-after-superstorm-sandy-state-and-federal-agencies-to-study-back-bay-flooding

23 Nov 2016

Jersey Shore fish pond helped by Superstorm Sandy

For years, the conflicting goals of protecting the environment and some of the New Jersey shore’s priciest real estate from storms have bedeviled a body of water known as Wreck Pond.

Storms sometimes open a channel between the 48-acre tidal pond and the ocean, but governments keep sealing it shut to protect homes from flooding. The result has been poor water quality and much narrower access to the ocean that hurts fish that travel from ocean to pond to breed.

But a program that sprang from resiliency planning after Superstorm Sandy is addressing both problems at once. The main phase of the work has been completed, consisting of a concrete culvert between the pond and the ocean to make it easier for fish, including herring, to reach the sea.

“This is a demonstration of how we can restore the coastal ecology of the Jersey shore while at the same time keeping communities safe from future storms,” said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, the coastal advocacy group that oversaw construction. “We’re restoring a piece of the ecology that has been lost.”

The inlet at Wreck Pond has come and gone over the decades. Its very name came from shipwrecks that used to occur when the inlet was open in the 1800s; the Sea Girt lighthouse was built to illuminate it. In the 1600s, Lenape Indians came to the inlet for bathing rituals and clam feasts. Records from the 1920s show the inlet still open, but fairly shallow and often clogged with sand.

In May 1938, Wreck Pond was dammed off from the ocean in the name of protecting the oceanfront communities on either side of it from flood damage from surging ocean waters. Two weeks later, the ocean broke through, and the first of many years of repair and maintenance work ensued.

Most recently, Sandy re-opened it in 2012, but drifting sand naturally reclosed it within two weeks, and government crews reinforced it as part of a beach replenishment project.

But in reducing the danger of one type of flooding — ocean waves surging into the pond — dams inadvertently raised the risk of a different type of flooding, from heavy rainfall that swells the pond beyond its banks. The tunnel will give that water someplace to go.

In addition to letting fish in and out more easily, the culvert can be opened or closed as needed during storms to control flooding.

It’s akin to an express lane for fish, but people will benefit, too. The project enables officials to better control water levels in the pond during storms, and dramatically improves water quality by flushing it regularly with infusions of ocean water, preventing bacteria and algae blooms from choking it.

And it should reduce, if not eliminate altogether, the frequent ocean beach closings that result when even a small amount of rain falls, sending harmful bacteria into the ocean.

The work is part of $7.4 million worth of work in and around the pond, financed by federal, state, county and local governments.

The Littoral Society has been monitoring fish traffic and is pleased to see large volumes of river herring and other species using it to get to and from the pond.

“There was a time when the pond had a bountiful natural fish population,” said Spring Lake Mayor Jennifer Naughton. “With the increased flow of salt water into the pond, we expect to see a significant increase in water quality.”

Wayne Parry Of The Associated Press

http://www.mcall.com/news/nationworld/mc-jersey-shore-fish-channel-20161123-story.html

07 Nov 2016

Sandy advocacy group receives $1.5 million grant

TOMS RIVER  — A nearly $1.5 million grant from the Robin Hood Foundation will allow a Sandy advocacy group to continue helping storm victims through 2017.

“I am bursting at the seams so I am not going to delay anymore,” Sue Marticek, executive director of the Ocean County Long-Term Recovery Group said at the start of the organization’s monthly meeting. “We have actually had three funders come forward.”

The long-term recovery group, an umbrella organization of about 80 nonprofits, will receive $1.485 million from the Robin Hood Foundation, $25,000 from the Ocean First Foundation, and $50,000 from the Community Foundation of New Jersey.

Marticek said last month that she feared the long-term recovery group would have to close its doors in December if more funding was not received, even though she believes the county is only “about halfway through the recovery.”

Homeowners frequently find that they are short several thousand dollars at the end of the rebuilding process.

The new influx of funds will help the group provide about  $1 million to help homeowners get back home by bridging the funding gaps that frequently exist between the amount of grant and insurance monies a Sandy victim receives, and the actual amount of money they need to move back into their house.

A non-profit builders group that has also been assisting homeowners here will receive $1.45 million from the Robin Hood Foundation, Marticek said.

“Because of the efforts of the nonprofits, we have over $2 million extra to give out in 2017,” Marticek said.

The Ocean County group has also held a series of free workshops to help answer homeowners’ questions about the state’s signature recovery program for homeowners, the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program.

As the only long-term recovery group still operating in New Jersey, the Ocean County group also hosted workshops throughout the state to assist homeowners interested in reopening their flood insurance claims.

Story continues below the photo.

Homeowners frequently find that they are short several thousand dollars at the end of the rebuilding process, Marticek has said. Four years after the storm, hundreds of homeowners here continue to struggle: Marticek estimates that Ocean County is “about halfway through the recovery.”

The long-term recovery group has distributed more than $6 million to help Sandy victims since it was formed in the aftermath of the 2012 storm, and has assisted more than 2,300 Ocean County families.

Ocean County had the most Sandy damage in the state: more than 40,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Jean Mikle: (732) 643-4050, jmikle@gannettnj.com

, @jeanmikle6:32 a.m. EST November 7, 2016