1980 DEP Flood Map Trumps 2005 FEMA Map
In determining floodways, plains and zones, a FEMA map can only be used if a town does not have an existing DEP map.
Borough engineer, Margita Batistic, confirmed to Mayor Ann Subrizi that in the matter of flood maps, a 32-year old DEP map trumps a seven-year old FEMA map.
During Tuesday's Planning Board meeting, Subrizi said that she had consulted with Batistic who informed her that if a town has an existing DEP map, which New Milford does, then the FEMA map cannot be used, or relied upon, in determining flood elevations. The FEMA map is primarily intended for use by the National Flood Insurance Program only.
Central to the recent Zoning Board hearings, is the developer's reliance on DEP flood maps that date to 1980. Members of New Milford's grassroots group SOD (Stop Over Development), have been questioning experts regarding their position on the validity of the 1980 map as a tool for determining flooding on the United Water property.
Hekemian's engineer, Michael Dipple, testified that he relied on the 1980 NJDEP state map because it is the state regulatory map and the one that Dipple said he is required to use in determining his calculations.
"If a state map is available we are required to use it," Dipple said.
Due to the flooding events that have occurred since the 1980 DEP map was created, residents want any updates to the map to reflect the reality of the area now under consideration for development by Hekemian.
During the April meeting of the Zoning Board regarding Hekemian's proposed development, members of the board, as well as many members of the audience, who have lived through Floyd, the Palm Sunday storm and Irene expressed concern that if the land is covered by impervious materials, the water will pool.
During that meeting, board attorney, Scott Sproviero, told Dipple that despite the flood maps that were on exhibit detailing the flood hazard area, the people of New Milford have lived through real storm events, citing the Palm Sunday storm and Hurricane Irene.
Sproviero said, "They know that the area floods."
During a June meeting of the Planning Board, Subrizi reported that the NJDEP is working with FEMA to update their current flood map and showed a preliminary map outlining today's 100 and 500 year floodplain. (A copy of this draft map is available for view in the Building Department at Borough Hall.)
The 'flood plain' is the area adjacent to a body of water that is covered by floodwater when it rains. This area can shrink or expand depending on how much it rains. According to New Jersey land use law, the regulated flood plain is the area that would be covered by water during the “100 year storm” — a storm which has a 1 in 100 chance of occurring in any one year period.
The flood plain is made up of two parts — the floodway and the flood fringe. The floodway is the inner area where floodwaters are deep and move fast. The floodway always includes the area where the water normally flows, and usually extends to the top of the bank and sometimes beyond. The flood fringe is the outer area where flood waters move more slowly, appearing more still, like a lake or pond.
According to New Jersey Land Use Law, a building in a floodway will block the water’s flow, backing up water and causing flooding upstream to worsen. A building in a flood fringe will prevent flood waters from spreading out, thus forcing floodwaters downstream faster and increasing downstream flooding.
According to Subrizi, Batistic told her that upon reviewing all of the maps--the 1980 DEP map, 2005 FEMA map and the draft update to the 1980 DEP map-- none show the United Water property to be in the floodway.
Subrizi told the board that the final version of the updated DEP map should be completed in approximately one year.
Let Patch save you time. Get local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. It’s simple and fast: sign-up here.