Port De­posit res­i­dents urged to re­gain flood in­sur­ance

New map goes into ef­fect Aug. 1

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— A mis­take made in flood map­ping may have fi­nan­cial ben­e­fit for some home­own­ers in the wa­ter­front town, fed­eral of­fi­cials told the mayor and town coun­cil Tues­day.

Robert Pier­son, spokesman for the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, Re­gion III in Philadel­phia, said those in town who did drop their flood in­sur­ance when FEMA took the north end of Port De­posit out of the flood zone may get back in at a lower premium.

“They might be bet­ter off than if they’ve been in for years,” he said.

How­ever, the dead­line for this po­ten­tial dis­count will likely end soon.

“For sure you want these peo­ple to get flood in­sur­ance and you want them to get it be­fore Aug. 1 when the map goes into ef­fect,” Pier­son said.

Right now, FEMA is in a 90-day ap­peal pe­riod in which the public can com­ment on the re­vised maps. The Flood Haz­ard De­ter­mi­na­tion notice is posted at http:// tinyurl. com/ fema­port.

FEMA ruled last year that Port De­posit was not

PORT DE­POSIT

in the 100-year flood plain and at no risk for coastal flood­ing.

“That was a shock to us,” Coun­cil­man Bob Kuhs said.

Pier­son said re­searchers re­vis­ited their data and dis­cov­ered the er­ror by not con­sid­er­ing the im­pact of the Susque­hanna River.

“This is a true risk down­town,” Pier­son said, to ac­knowl­edg­ing nods from every town of­fi­cial. “It was a to­tal FEMA over­sight that ac­tu­ally hap­pened in other towns as well.”

Coun­cil­man Tom Knight ex­plained it in sim­ple terms.

“Our flood­ing is more of the wa­ter comes in and goes down,” Knight said. “It’s not wave action.”

He said the rail­road tracks, to some de­gree, act as a bar­rier.

Pier­son said any prop­erty owner who wants to see if there is the po­ten­tial for dam­age can go to the Na­tional Flood In­sur­ance Pro­gram web­site at www. flood­s­mart.gov and use the red box to de­ter­mine flood risk.

The new map, bringing all of the down­town back into the flood plain, was is­sued March 21. How­ever, no­tices an­nounc­ing the change were only pub­lished in a metropoli­tan news­pa­per. The coun­cil urged the fed­eral rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the Tues­day night work ses­sion to make the in­for­ma­tion avail­able to town res­i­dents.

Mean­while, Knight said some in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have likely seen that notice and will con­tact cus­tomers.

Vicky Rinker­man, town ad­min­is­tra­tor, said she would post all the in­for­ma­tion given the town on the town’s web­site and through so­cial me­dia.

In the midst of the map up­date, the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers is also de­vel­op­ing a flood emer­gency tool for Port De­posit. Craig Thomas, Corps spokesman, told town of­fi­cials this would be an on­line in­ter­ac­tive mech­a­nism to de­ter­mine flood­wa­ter lev­els as it hap­pens in re­la­tion to spill con­di­tions at the Conowingo Dam.

“Any­body will be able to go on­line, click on a gate and get in­for­ma­tion about the flood and depth of wa­ter,” he said.

Af­ter a com­mu­ni­ca­tion lapse be­tween the dam and town hall cre­ated a mas­sive flood event in Jan­uary 1996, a chart was de­vel­oped along with an emer­gency no­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem, which spells out wa­ter lev­els and lo­ca­tions in Port De­posit in cor­re­la­tion with the open­ing of the 53 crest gates.

“This is go­ing to be an ac­tual map, a mod­ern ver­sion of that piece of pa­per,” Thomas said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

Robert Pier­son, rep­re­sent­ing Re­gion III in Philadel­phia for the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, shows Port De­posit of­fi­cials FEMA’s re­vised flood plain map.

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