2017-05-22 / Front Page / JT Beacon

Public hearing to be held on FEMA maps appeal

By DINA MENDROS
Associate Editor

WELLS — In 2013, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued flood zone maps, which many communities in southern Maine objected to as the maps added more property into the flood hazard area.

Many local coastal communities hired consulting firms to design wave form models and used the data to appeal the maps. Wells used $20,000 of town money along with $13,000 raised by local residents to hire a firm to conduct modeling to back up its appeal.

For four years, there was virtually no communication from FEMA officials, said Wells Town Manager Jon Carter on May 16.

Recently however, FEMA has been back in touch, and has reissued the same maps it issued four years before. According to Carter FEMA “threw out” the technical findings the town supplied them with in 2014.

The town is proposing to hire a consulting firm — at a cost of up to $80,000 — for a second time. It would create wave action modeling of Wells Bay. This time, numerous coastal communities from Scarborough to Kittery plan to work together and hire Ransom Consulting to create a technical model of wave action in the flood areas.

According to Carter, FEMA released flood maps “that show that the wave action for the very first time breaches barrier beaches and goes into the Webhanet River and harbor area and creates a flooding situation for back dune folks.”

More than 60 new parcels are at risk being added to the hazardous flood zone, he said, and the flood zones under the FEMA maps would change for numerous other landowners. Theses changes could require homeowners to pay significantly more for flood insurance and could require homeowners making repairs and renovations to elevate their homes to an unnecessary height, said then-Selectman Robert Foley when the issue was discussed in 2014.

“So the cost factor is great for the individuals as well as the community,”  Carter said. 

In 2014, the Journal Tribune reported that the FEMA maps that had been issued in 2013 added 60 new lots to the town's preliminary flood hazard maps, mostly in the marsh area on Drakes Island and the back of Moody Point.

The maps would also affect the 1,640 lots that contain 2,100 residential units already in the flood plain, Carter said in 2014.

The preliminary maps show wave heights, with surge and wind, of as much as six feet high, Carter had said.

The wave height is in doubt, he said in 2014, because there is concern that the model used to make this determination is flawed.

There has been very little discussion by FEMA about how the model used to determine wave height and the flood plain was developed, he had said. But what was known was that it was a West Coast model program, said Carter. Because of the terrain difference between the East and West coasts, many were concerned that the maps are inaccurate.

A public hearing will be held on June 6 to discuss whether to allocate up to $80,000 to hire Ransom Consulting to create technical models to appeal the FEMA flood maps.

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324, or dmendros@journaltribune.com.

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