Ocean City Today

FEMA flood map error still causing headaches uptown

By Katie Tabeling | Oct 26, 2017
Courtesy of: Town of Ocean City’s FEMA flood map Three uptown townhouses are still included in the high-risk zone on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s map, even after dozens of properties were deemed protected by two dunes last year.

(Oct. 27, 2017) Despite the corrections made to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood map last March, some property owners continue to struggle with the exorbitant insurance rates caused by the map’s erroneous assumptions.

Although several properties on the resort’s north end were placed back in the map’s low-risk areas, three town houses along the beach, between 144th and 145th Street, remain in the flood zone.

This is despite City Engineer Terry McGean’s arguments that they should be included among the dozens of properties protected by two dunes instead of one.

“They still put the V (flood) line at the landward toe of the primary frontal dune, and the dunes go under decks and balconies of these town homes,” he said. “Any part of the building that clips the high-risk zone, then it’s in it, even though the balconies are 12 feet above the dunes. It’s like the problem we had with the condominiums.”

In 2015, after three decades of no changes, FEMA updated its Ocean City flood maps and put properties on 93rd Street north in a high flood hazard zone. The result was a huge surge in insurance rates, which hit the six-figure range in some cases.

McGean said the mistake was that FEMA treated two separate dunes as one, rather than the double layer of protection they provided. One dune was constructed by the city in 1993 and another was created through the Army Corps’ Engineers Beach Replenishment Program.

Nevertheless, FEMA concluded the oceanfront properties were not adequately protected.

The City Council proceeded with the only way it could to rectify the issue — via a “letter of map revision” asking FEMA to accept the Army Corps of Engineer’s survey data that the showed the secondary dune was non-contiguous.

FEMA agreed and issued a correction last November, which affected 17 out of 26 properties. Since then, Hanson Flood Risk Consultants worked with the nine other properties to return most of them behind the low-risk line.

But since the “landward toe of the primary dune,” the point where the dune changes from a steep slope to a relatively mild one, still falls four feet within the townhouse balconies and decks, FEMA still will not put them outside the flood zone.

McGean said the property owners have submitted a letter of map revision, but it was denied and the townhouse owners continue to face tens of thousands of dollars in insurance premiums.

“I’m working on this, and I’m not giving up on this,” he said. “We were thrilled that FEMA fixed this with several other condos, but it’s unfortunate that we’re still discussing this.”

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