WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, confirmed today that Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) officials will hold a public informational meeting with residents of Harpswell regarding a review of proposed flood maps for that coastal community.
Senator Collins said her staff will be on hand for the September 2 meeting at Harpswell Islands School. At the meeting, the proposed FEMA flood maps will be available for review beginning at 6 p.m.
FEMA, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Committee, recently published preliminary flood maps for the towns of South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Harpswell, and others.
"I expect FEMA to work closely with Harpswell residents and local officials throughout this process," said Senator Collins. "It is imperative that FEMA follow the same collaborative process that I insisted be used to resolve the flood mapping dispute with the City of Portland. Ultimately, Portland was able to provide additional scientific data to FEMA that led to important changes regarding the flood maps proposed for Portland Harbor."
The City of Portland spent $10,000 to hire a consultant to collect additional local data, including wind speeds, which illustrated the harbor’s unique characteristics. That additional data showed that FEMA’s baseline wind measurements were not appropriate for Casco Bay because of its coastline, ledges, peninsulas, and islands.
"Thankfully, as a result of this additional modeling and a collaborative process between Portland officials and FEMA, the flood maps for Portland Harbor were greatly improved based on good science and local knowledge of risk," said Senator Collins. "We need to have the best science available applied to this process. The economic consequences of revised flood maps can be quite dramatic and devastating, particularly in the current economic climate.
"As I stated Wednesday during a committee hearing with FEMA, the financial burden of providing additional local data that would lead to the most accurate flood maps shouldn’t fall on the communities. That should be FEMA’s responsibility. Otherwise, we are shifting the financial burden to the coastal communities, requiring towns to spend money for consultants to gather this localized data. As Portland’s experience showed, that can be incredibly expensive and a lot of these communities are cash-strapped right now due to tough economic times."
During the hearing, Senator Collins told FEMA to continue to keep her informed as more Maine coastal areas come up for flood mapping updates. "I would ask that you continue to work with me and the other members of this committee to help communities," she said. "For a community to have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to produce data to challenge these maps is really difficult."