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Southern Maine officials to get face time with FEMA on flood maps

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Southern Maine officials to get face time with FEMA on flood maps

SOUTH PORTLAND — Aides to Sen. Susan Collins and officials from Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth will meet with the Federal Emergency Management Agency next week to discuss concerns that FEMA flood maps are inaccurate.

The meetings come amid fears that the proposed federal floodplain maps will unnecessarily impede development and force homeowners to buy expensive flood insurance.

News that communities were becoming concerned with maps began last year, when several southern Maine communities, including Harpswell, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Kennebunk, hired a consultant to refute portions of FEMA's proposed floodplain.

The issue received statewide attention last month after the city of Portland successfully convinced the agency to revise the proposed floodplain for Portland Harbor. The agreement halted a designation that would have restricted development on virtually all of the city's wharfs and piers.

Although the agreement was a victory for Portland business owners and developers, the outcome was less certain for homeowners in surrounding communities, some of whom are still dealing with roadblocks stemming from FEMA's old floodplain maps, which were drafted in 1983.

FEMA has acknowledged problems with its mapping, which relies on wind and wave models projected for a 100-year flood. But the agency's update, which reportedly cost $3.2 million, is not sitting well with coastal communities that have been forced to hire an outside consultant to refute flood projections that in some cases have 100-foot waves navigating inlets and islands before reaching mainland property.

FEMA's mapping effort has also attracted attention from the state's congressional delegation. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, along with Republican Sens. Collins and Olympia Snowe wrote to FEMA urging the agency to reconsider the state map, which they said is based on inaccurate data.

Last October, Pingree told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that the impact on the state's southern coast would be "devastating."

On Monday, July 12, officials from South Portland and Cape Elizabeth and members of Collins' staff will meet with FEMA representatives to discuss the proposed maps.

Collins, the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said she would make sure FEMA "performs its mapping responsibilities in a collaborative partnership with all affected Maine communities."

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at the South Portland Community Center at 21 Nelson Road.

A second meeting with officials from other communities will be held in Portland at 1 p.m., at a location to be determined later this week.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net

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