By DON STINE
Ocean Grove officials announced this week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has overturned a previous ruling and has now determined that the historic district is eligible for federal funding to repair its boardwalk, which was damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“We are delighted and grateful to have just recently learned that FEMA has determined that the (Ocean Grove) Camp Meeting Association is eligible for assistance in funding of the boardwalk restoration. Although this eligibility determination does not guarantee us full funding from FEMA, it does allow us to proceed further in the process,” said Camp Meeting Association chief operating officer J.P. Gradone in a prepared statement.
Gradone said that the OGCMA is currently seeking clarification on FEMA’s decision and will proceed as quickly as possible to work through the funding process in order to be able to begin boardwalk reconstruction.
“This complex process entails a variety of steps, including further interaction with FEMA, the office of the governor, Neptune, other government agencies, and our engineering firm,” he said.
FEMA previously ruled that because Ocean Grove’s boardwalk is privately-owned by the nonprofit Camp Meeting Association, it did not qualify for federal disaster assistance.
However, Ocean Grove officials challenged the ruling during a second appeal process with the help of local officials and legislators.
Overall, Ocean Grove officials said they view FEMA’s new ruling as a positive event.
“We won the appeal,” Gradone said.
Camp Meeting Association officials said they have already spent $500,000 for boardwalk repairs at its southern end, including debris and pile removals and construction work.
FEMA has given Ocean Grove federal funding in the past for storm damage but denied it in the first round of funding to repair damage from Sandy.
Ocean Grove officials said previously it is estimated to cost from $3 million to $3.5 million for boardwalk and beachfront repairs. A large central section of the boardwalk was severely damaged by Sandy and remained closed during last year’s summer season.