Concerns Raised Over FEMA Flood Maps in Maine

December 2, 2013

Maine communities are criticizing new maps proposed by the federal government that show future flooding risks near the state’s coast that could impact what kind of insurance property owners must buy.

The Flood Insurance Rate Maps released earlier this month by the Federal Emergency Management Agency predict the future flooding levels in York and Cumberland Counties. It’s only a preliminary version – municipalities have the chance to appeal and the final maps won’t be released until 2015.

Thousands of property owners who are said to be in a high-risk flooding zone in the new maps could be forced to buy flood insurance in 2015. Premiums could be impacted for about 40 percent of the 9,000 Mainers that currently hold flood insurance, said Sue Baker of Maine’s Floodplain Management Program.

Kerry Bodgan, a senior engineer with FEMA, said nationwide – and especially in New England – the engineering and science behind existing maps are very outdated.

Several municipalities say they disagree with FEMA’s assessment and are paying Robert Gerber, a senior engineer and geologist with Ransom Consulting in Portland, to conduct an independent analysis of the flood risk.

FEMA is unable to do site-specific analyses because it has an enormous workload and a limited budget, Gerber said.

Tom Hall, town manager of Scarborough – which is spending about $300,000 on its own map – said he’s frustrated with the process.

“We find ourselves on behalf of our residents willing to spend local dollars to do some of the work that I would expect FEMA and their consultants to do, frankly,” he told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. “But in the end, we need to make sure these maps are as good as they can be.”

Hall said hundreds of properties in Scarborough could be impacted by FEMA’s findings, which show flood levels increasing in the Scarborough Marsh area by one or two feet more than what the city’s independent analysis found.

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