Harpswell conditionally commits to flood-map appeal

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HARPSWELL — The town will contribute $30,000 to a joint appeal of new, preliminary flood hazard maps – a gesture intended to “throw the wink” at neighboring towns whose participation would reduce Harpswell’s share of the cost.

A consultant told the Board of Selectmen July 19 there is “no justification” for the new maps, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency released in April. He said the new lines exaggerated the town’s risk in a way that could inflate flood insurance premiums.

The next day, selectmen voted unanimously to join an appeal over the maps.

Nate Dill of Ransom Consulting told the board July 19 he has been herding York and Cumberland County towns to file an appeal, for which the first phase would involve a survey of Casco Bay at a cost of $210,000. He hopes to have eight towns join the effort.

Harpswell is the fifth to join, meaning its $30,000 contribution is contingent on at least two other towns signing on – which they might be encouraged to do, selectmen said last week, now that Harpswell has signaled its financial commitment.

Selectmen voted to fund an amount less than a fifth of the cost on the assumption that other communities will do the same, after Dill said other towns were hesitant to commit without knowing their share of the total.

“We kind of got to throw the wink,” Selectman Rick Daniel said – to Saco and South Portland, in particular.

Dill said those municipalities are among the ones deciding whether to join the appeal. Kittery has also said it will join, but that its contribution is conditional on eight towns filing together.

As of Tuesday evening, Dill said he hadn’t heard a final word from the three localities.

He said he gave them a deadline of end the of the month to notify him of their participation, because Ransom needs to begin work before FEMA announces the beginning of a 90-day window to appeal. Dill said he thinks that will happen in August.

The appeal will involve a survey of Casco Bay using a more precise calculation for measuring the flood planes than what FEMA used for its 2017 maps, he said.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.