Good news for Kittery
FEMA adds new step to review process
KITTERY, Maine — Kittery’s town manager is reacting with relief to the news this week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has formed an outside panel to review its floodplain mapping — delaying the start of the appeals process.
FEMA notified York County and Cumberland County municipal officials Tuesday that it has formed a third-party Scientific Resolution Panel to review the methodology it used to create the preliminary floodplain maps released late last year.
“Hallelujah. I’m pleased they’re going to take another look,” said Kittery Town Manager Nancy Colbert Puff. “This is exactly what we wanted to have happen. FEMA is listening to the coastal communities.”
The mapping technique used in southern Maine is the same that was used in Massachusetts, where three municipalities in Plymouth County initiated appeals saying it was flawed, said Dennis Pinkham, external affairs director for FEMA Region 1.
Robert Gerber of Ransom Environmental in Portland said he requested the third-party panel. Gerber filed the appeals in Plymouth County, which were denied by FEMA. However, he used the same methods for 2010 appeals of earlier FEMA maps, subsequently withdrawn, in eight York County and Cumberland County towns.
“I asked for the third-party review panel on the basis that FEMA accepted (his methodology) in part of southern Maine, so why wasn’t it accepted in Plymouth County,” he said in an e-mail to Colbert Puff and other town officials who have hired his firm recently.
The same logic is what is driving towns such as Kittery and Wells. The eight towns that appealed in 2010 were allowed to use Gerber’s methodology in 2013, but the remaining towns were not.
“The claim of incorrect methodology isn’t peculiar to Plymouth County,” Pinkham admitted. He said FEMA spent two years devising its mapping system and is confident in it. But the review panel will make a final determination, he said.
“When this issue is resolved, we’ll be able to move forward,” he said.
Sue Baker, Coastal Floodplain Management program coordinator for the state of Maine, said it is her understanding that the panel could take up to five months to review the data.
“It’s so brand new, I don’t think anyone knows for sure,” she said.
Baker said the panel is “the first of its kind” that she is familiar with in Maine, “and I think it would be welcome to everyone.”
Colbert Puff gives credit to the staff of Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, for staying on top of the issue.
“They have proved to be strong partners in helping us to navigate this process. Kittery truly appreciates their demonstrable dedication and ongoing assistance,” she said.
In a prepared statement, King said the panel was the right way to go.
“It’s critical that these flood maps accurately reflect the actual risk associated with properties,” he said. “FEMA made a wise decision not to move forward with the appeals process until the methodology and resultant data can be verified as accurate.”