Fenwick Moves Ahead With Flood Damage Reduciton

FENWICK ISLAND – The Town of Fenwick Island’s process toward adopting a new policy regarding flood damage is nearly complete.

At the October Town Council meeting, the new ordinance regarding Flood Damage Reduction, referred to as Chapter 88, was introduced to the council. At that time, Mayor Audrey Serio stated, after discussing the topic with other council members and Vice Mayor Gene Langan, she decided that there were too many questions and not enough understanding across the board.

The town is required to pass a Flood Damage Reduction ordinance by March 15, 2015. The ordinance to repeal the existing Chapter 88 titled Flood Damage Prevention and to adopt a new Chapter 88 titled Flood Damage Reduction returned before the council on Friday to be approved in first reading.

The new Chapter 88 will adopt Flood Hazard Maps, designate a Floodplain Administrator, adopt administrative procedures and criteria for development in flood hazard areas, provide for applicability, repealer and an effective date.

“A few years ago, the town was notified the floodplain maps were going to be changed. The maps were changed after an appeal process and public hearing workshops that were held. After that, DNREC submitted a sample model ordinance that was strongly recommended for the town to adopt, and all towns in Delaware were asked to follow this particular model to maintain consistency. The town reviewed it and made some changes,” said Councilman William Weistling, who serves on the Charter and Ordinance Committee. “The ordinance needs to be passed for the town to remain in the National Flood Insurance Program.”

According to the ordinance, “all development and new construction are to be complaint with the Town of Fenwick Island’s floodplain management regulations in effect at the time of construction, and all development, new construction, and substantial improvements subsequent to the effective date of these regulations shall be complaint with these regulations.”

Development is defined as “any manmade change to improved or unimproved real estate, including but not limited to buildings or other structures, placement of manufactured homes, mining, dredging, filling, grading, paving, excavation or drilling operations or storage of equipment or materials.”

New construction is defined as “buildings and structure for which the “start of construction” commenced on or after March 23, 1973, including any subsequent improvements to such structures.”

Substantial improvement is defined as “any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the “start of construction” of the improvement.”

Weistling highlighted the new chapter.

“Three map zones in the Town were actually reduced with the new FEMA review. It also adds an additional increase along the bayside. Some bayside areas will be raised one ft. above flood elevation now,” he said.

The ordinance requires all duct work to be at or above base flood elevation, which is the water surface elevation of the base flood in relation to the datum specified on the community’s Flood Insurance Rate Map. In areas of shallow flooding, the base flood elevation is the natural grade elevation plus the depth number specified in ft. on the Flood Insurance Rate Map, or at least two feet if the depth number is not specified.

“The town has decided to add two feet of freeboard for the lowest floor elevation above base flood elevation in the residential area. Also, in the commercial area unless the building is floodproofed,” Weistling said.

Freeboard is a factor of safety usually expressed in feet above a flood elevation for the purposes of floodplain management. Freeboard tends to compensate for the many unknown factors that could contribute to flood heights greater than the height calculated for a selected size flood and floodway conditions, such as wave action, obstructed bridge openings, debris and ice jams, and the hydrologic effect of urbanization in a watershed.

Floodproofed structures are designed to be dry floodproofed such that the structure is watertight with walls and floors substantially impermeable to the passage of water to the level of the base flood elevation plus 24 inches. In areas of shallow flooding, the structure shall be dry floodproofed at least as high above the adjacent grade as the depth number specified in ft. on the Flood Insurance Rate Map plus 24 inches, or at least four ft. if a depth number is not specified.

Floodproofed structures must be certified by a licensed professional engineer or licensed professional architect with a Floodproofing Certificate.

According to Weistling, once the council approves the ordinance on second reading, it has to be reviewed by three other separate agencies prior to being approved by NDREC and FEMA by the March 15 deadline.

The council voted unanimously to approve the new Chapter 88 on first reading without discussion.

For more information on Chapter 88, Flood Damage Reduction, to be passed in second reading on Jan. 23 visit the town’s website at www.fenwickisland.org.