When the Federal Emergency Management Agency began releasing its preliminary work maps this week, you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from property owners up and down the coast.

On the new flood maps, velocity zones, where 3-foot waves can be expected during major storms, were reduced dramatically. The broad areas included in the V zones caused an uproar over advisory maps issued last year.

Lost in that uproar - and in the relief over these changes - is the fact that FEMA has simply been doing its job.

In V zones, new construction and properties that sustained damage in Hurricane Sandy of 50 percent of the home's value or more must be raised on piling. Homes that did not sustain damage do not have to be raised, but if they are not, owners could face staggering increases in the cost of flood insurance.

Coastal homes in the less-restrictive A zone still face height requirements, but since block can be used instead of piling, raising homes is easier and cheaper.

Many people who saw their homes in V zones last year and now see them in A zones seem to feel they have won a victory over FEMA. In fact, this is exactly the way things were supposed to work. The changes are part of the process, not a victory over it.

It is true that some local officials, including the Coastal Coalition, a group of 20 mayors and other representatives from coastal communities, made a determined effort to make sure FEMA took into account hard structures that can block wave damage and marshlands that can mitigate flood damage.

But it wasn't political pressure that got the maps changed. It was science. FEMA said from the start that subsequent maps would be based on a more detailed wave analysis.

Some environmental groups say V zones have now gotten too small. They think New Jersey is missing an opportunity to make changes in coastal development following Sandy. But that's a political argument, and again, these maps are not political documents. They are only intended to estimate the effects of future storms, not determine policy.

When FEMA released its advisory base flood elevation maps in December - and Gov. Chris Christie adopted them statewide - it allowed property owners to begin rebuilding. People who elevated their homes based on those maps may have done more than they would have had to if they had waited, but as a result they have safer structures and they should see flood-insurance savings.

And the maps aren't final yet. FEMA officials said they do not expect there to be further wholesale changes. But when the next round of preliminary flood maps are released later this summer, municipalities will have a 90-day window to appeal designations by presenting technical information.

Following a disaster as massive as Sandy, emotions can run high. And for people who are still out of their homes, the process has been long and difficult. Even after all appeals are exhausted, not everyone will be happy with the flood maps. But, as the new maps released this week show, the process is working.