New flood-map process proposed by FEMA

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HARPSWELL — After being criticized for the way it changed coastal flood maps earlier this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is inviting Harpswell and other communities to participate in a new mapping process.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane presented information about FEMA’s new RiskMAP program to the Board of Selectmen on Nov. 18. RiskMAP, which stands for Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning, will replace Map Mod as the program used by FEMA to determine flood risk and to estimate insurance rates, according to a FEMA press release. RiskMAP will be implemented all over the country, according to FEMA’s website.

Complaints in Cumberland and York counties followed FEMA’s previous mapping, which increased the number of properties that would require flood insurance and the insurance premiums for those with existing flood-prone properties. 

Several municipalities, including Harpswell, hired Robert Gerber of Sebago Technics to perform an independent study of flood risks. His study showed a high disparity in flood estimations, especially in Harpswell.

FEMA said each town will have responsibility to provide information for RiskMAPs, and FEMA and the towns will collaborate to collect flood data to create the new RiskMAPs.

Eiane said Harpswell is “still in the process of finding out details of” RiskMAP. She said residents should be aware there will be new maps issued by FEMA as well as a new 90-day comment period on the maps when they are released.

“The whole process has shifted somewhat,” she said.

Eiane said she does not know what kind of data FEMA is seeking, but said it is most likely more technical than anecdotal. She said there will be a public information meeting hosted by FEMA before the end of the year.

“I think they are trying to do more public information,” she said.

Selectman Elinor Multer expressed concern that a press release issued by FEMA implied Harpswell has already agreed to participate in the RiskMAP process, but Eiane said a charter has not been signed between the town and FEMA.

“What they are asking for in terms of data and cost is still unclear,” she said.

A five-page draft charter offers many opportunities to tailor to each community, with multiple sections marked “delete as needed.”

FEMA describes RiskMAP as a multiyear, “collaborative program that enables participating communities to combine enhanced Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) that provide a greater analysis of risk with mitigation planning.”

“RiskMAP will deliver quality data that increases public awareness and leads to action that reduces risk to life and property,” according to FEMA.

New flood maps for Cumberland and York counties will be published following resolution of all appeals and comments, FEMA said.

Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or sgrinnell@theforecaster.net.

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