Middle hires coastal expert on FEMA maps

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MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – Township officials are racing to challenge the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps for the western part of the municipality.

Part of that process is Middle Township Committee bringing on Stewart Farrell, who is a professor of marine geology at Richard Stockton College. On Monday, Jan. 6, officials approved an $8,497 agreement with Farrell.

“We are very pleased to add our region’s leading coastal expert to our team that will work with FEMA on accurate flood maps that reflect the true flood risk along the bay front section of Middle Township,” Middle Township Mayor Tim Donohue said in a prepared statement. “Dr. Farrell has worked diligently with many coastal communities in our region for decades and has successfully secured accurate flood maps for our neighbors. The investment in Dr. Farrell’s services will pay dividends for Middle Township for decades to follow.”

Township business administrator Connie Mahon said at a meeting Monday night that much of the bayfront remains in the V Zone, or velocity flood zone, in the most recent versions of the FEMA flood elevation maps. She said she officials want to convince FEMA to change the designation.

The maps seek to prediction the flood levels of what is known as a 100-year storm, meaning a storm that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

In such a storm, homes in the V Zone could be hit by waves of 3 feet or higher.

The zone requires stricter construction standards, including building the first habitable floor about the expected flood levels.

Those in the V Zone could face higher flood insurance premiums, as well.

However, officials in several towns in Cape May County have argued that FEMA originally went too far in setting the V zones. In some shore towns, the originally designated zones have already been scaled back.

The preliminary work maps are expected to be unveiled in March. That leaves a short time for township to argue over the V Zones along the Delaware Bay in Middle Township, Mahon said.

Farrell will survey the bayfront area and take elevation points, according to Mahon. Reeds Beach and Pierce’s Point are on the Delaware Bay.

“Middle Township has been engaged in this process from the beginning and Dr. Farrell’s assistance and support will truly be beneficial to our entire community,” Donohue said.  “We have personally met with Congressman Frank LoBiondo, FEMA, state and local officials as we continue to push for flood maps that are based on science and accurately reflect flood risk.”

Farrell has worked with coastal communities on several issues, including beach and dune restoration, environmental issues and the new FEMA maps. He is the founder of the Stockton’s Coastal Research Center.

Middle Township is also working with Lower Township on the FEMA flood maps.

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