Harpswell votes to continue appeal of flood maps

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HARPSWELL — Voters approved referendum questions Tuesday that allow two flood prevention efforts to move forward.

The first asked voters to determine if the town should appropriate $50,000 from its unassigned fund balance toward continuing the appeal process for Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps. Voters responded affirmatively, 1,488 to 328.

The second question, approved 1,544 to 239, accepts an easement on a piece of privately owned property on Orr’s Island that allows the town access to a culvert capable of draining water from Leeman Road.

The flood maps are used to set National Flood Insurance Program rates. If FEMA deems properties in coastal communities as being highly vulnerable to flood damage, the properties’ insurance rates can soar.

“We’re pleased that the voters of Harpswell supported this request, as it will enable us to have a professional engineer provide some information to FEMA that will essentially attempt to create data for the floodplain map in Harpswell,” Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said. 

The town originally allotted $55,000 toward the FEMA appeal process at Town Meeting in March. The successful referendum will allow officials to move forward with phase two of the appeal process.

Eiane said she thinks the election results will be beneficial to the town in terms of both risk management and adhering to FEMA’s requirements.

“I think it’s important to have the most accurate data that we can when we respond to FEMA,” Eiane said. “Ultimately we’re just trying to ensure that we have done the best to identify where the real risks are and eliminate the areas that are a part of the overly conservative model FEMA has put forth.” 

Road Commissioner Ronald Ponziani said efforts to legally remove and replace the culvert on Orr’s Island have been ongoing for a year.

Ponziani said the owner of the land was on board with the proposal from the beginning, but the road commissioner wanted to do it legally to make the replacement process easier in the future.

“This is something we inherited without realizing it, it was in bad need of replacing, it was causing the road to flood and it was causing a potential hazard for the neighbors,” Ponziani said. “By getting this opened up, I think it’s going to be like it used to be.”

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net.