2013-11-15 / Community

New southern Maine flood maps issued

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reissued preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps, meaning some property owners in Cumberland and York Counties may soon see increases in their flood insurance premiums.

“This potentially has huge implications up and down the coast and Scarborough is certainly part of that,” Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said last week.

Hall said the last time the maps were preliminarily released in 2009, 1,000 properties in Scarborough were affected by the flood map change.

“It is potentially a big, big deal if you are one of those properties affected,” he said.

The impact of this round of maps is not known yet, but Scarborough Town Planner Dan Bacon said “there are at least a couple areas” where the flood zone has changed.

One area is Scarborough Marsh land by Winnocks Neck Road. Another, he said, is the marsh side of Jones Creek Drive in Pine Point.

Preliminary maps were last released in 2009, but those maps were ultimately pulled back by FEMA and were never finalized.

“Those maps have since got tweaked a little and given some more attention,” said Kerry Bogdan, a senior engineer for FEMA Region 1, which covers all of New England.

Bogdan said new technology and better mapping techniques have created a better flood risk map this time around.

“Generally speaking, we feel the maps are more accurate andabetterdepictionofthefloodhazardrisksina1percent annual chance event,” Bogdan said.

Dick Lambert, Saco’s code enforcement officer, said the new maps are different than the previous versions in that they take into account the impact wave action has on a property.

“These new maps recognize the type of storm we get. The old maps marked still water elevation. These new maps recognize wave action,” Lambert said. “Wind-blown water rises to a much greater elevation than still water does.”

The new maps might mean homeowners could be required to purchase flood insurance, even if they were not required before.

Bogdan said this is particularly true for those homeowners who find their properties listed in Zone V for the first time. The zone is the highest hazard zone, and with that comes higher insurance premiums. Flood insurance premiums, Bogdan said, are very “site specific” and depend on where the building structure is, where the lowest part of the building is and what is located on the first floor of that building. Some homeowners may no longer be required to purchase flood insurance as a result of the new mapping.

Lambert said if homeowners find their property listed in a flood zone on the new maps, now would be the time to purchase flood insurance because premium rates will surely increase when the new maps take affect.

Sue Baker, the program coordinator of the Maine Floodplain Management Program, encourages homeowners to see how the new maps will affect their property.

“For homeowners, it is better to find out now rather than waiting for the maps to take effect,” Baker said.

Digital maps were released Tuesday, Nov. 5 and paper maps are now available in most town halls. Digital maps are available at https://msc.fema.gov. The maps for Scarborough are also available through the town’s GIS system at www.scarborough.me.us.

“The impacts on people are going to be on an individual by individual basis,” said Joe Young, the mapping coordinator of the Maine Flood Map Program.

While some area’s flood risks have diminished with the new maps, Young said, areas that have seen significant storm damage in the past will continue to be at risk of flooding.

“The risks in those area we have seen significant storm damage in the past are still going to be there. These maps won’t change that,” Young said.

Young said generally areas that have “very gentle topography leading away from the ocean,” such as Scarborough Marsh and the towns of Wells and York, which have population centers close to the water, are susceptible to flooding.

FEMA officials, Bogdan said, are working with local officials to hold meetings about the map change in communities all across Cumberland and York counties. Those meetings, she said, could begin early next month.

Notice of the map change must be published in the Federal Register, the daily journal of the government, as well two publications in a local newspaper. Upon the second publication, property owners have 90 days to appeal the map change. That 90-day window, Bogdan, said is expected to start in late winter or early spring.

Lambert said during the appeals process, FEMA will be looking for scientific proof, not anecdotal evidence that their mapping is wrong.

The goal is to have the maps take effect in July 2015.

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