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January 1, 2014

Rockport challenge brings new flood maps

ROCKPORT — Town officials have formally appealed flood insurance rate maps and the base flood levels imposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

And the federal agency has sent the town a set of revised proposals for its review.

Town officials, after hiring Applied Coastal Research and Engineering Inc., said in their appeal they are “firmly of the opinion that the proposed (base flood elevations) determined by the (flood insurance survey) and shown in the preliminary (flood insurance rate maps) covering the town are scientifically and or technically incorrect.”

According to the appeal, the coastal research firm proposed that FEMA’s method of determining the base flood elevations for Sandy Bay, Main Street and Bearskin Neck do not reflect the accurate topography of the area, and as a result, “greatly overestimates the level of flooding” that can be projected for the town.

The firm also suggested the addition of two new flood areas “that better represent the complex and variable coast in our town,” Town Administrator Linda Sanders wrote to federal officials on behalf of Rockport. The new proposals by the coastal engineering firm would result in lower base flood elevation levels — defined as the level of floodwater that could be expected to occur once every 100 years.

In addition, Applied Coastal Research and Engineering Inc. stated that FEMA information “greatly over-predicts the magnitude of wave set up at Long Beach,” because the conditions were developed for the West Coast, not the East Coast, and the method used to determine the magnitude of the waves is “not appropriate in this area.”

As for the new sections of Main Street and Bearskin Neck, the firm used data from the United States Army Corps of Engineers to come up with new topography information, including aerial views and special radar information.

So far, Rockport is the only community on Cape Ann to appeal the FEMA flood insurance rate maps or the base flood elevation levels.

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