OC Planners Review Flood Plan Draft

OCEAN CITY — Resort planners this week got a first look at a draft plan to monitor and potentially address chronic flooding in town.

Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville presented the draft nuisance flood plan to the Planning Commission on Sept. 15. State law requires each coastal community that experiences nuisance flooding to prepare and submit a nuisance flood plan to inform the public and to take action to address flooding issues when it becomes necessary. It’s no secret many areas along the bayside downtown flood during even modest rainfall events and periods of high tides. It’s been going on for years and at times certain areas along the bayside become impassable.

Heretofore, the occasional flooding in the downtown area on the bayside has been just that, a nuisance, and at other times certain areas are shut off to vehicle traffic. Neville said at this point, the mandated nuisance flood plan is only required to monitor and collect data and identify recurring trouble spots. The next step is identifying possible solutions if and when the flooding situation is exacerbated.

“We need to prepare a nuisance flood plan and monitor it for the next five years,” he said. “This is the best way to observe the changes so we can best respond.”

The draft plan identifies nuisance flooding as flood conditions up to one foot that cause inconvenience, but not significant property damage. When the flooding moves from being inconvenient to more severe, the town will likely take action to mitigate the impacts, some of which would come with significant price tags. However, at this point, the plan simply calls for monitoring and collecting data over the next five years before embarking on serious mitigation plans.

“Should we consider elevating the streets at some point?” he said. “Are we going to reach the point where we have to raise the infrastructure? Those are the kinds of questions addressed by this report.”

Neville said the state’s deadline for submitting a draft nuisance flood plan is Oct. 1 and the full Mayor and Council will sign off on it after the planning commission reviewed it on Tuesday. At this point, the town is only required to monitor and identify “first to flood” areas.

“The odd thing about this document is the state only asks us to collect data,” he said. “It didn’t ask us to adopt specific solutions yet. It hasn’t gone through the approval process yet.”

Water rises in the flood-prone areas downtown during significant rainfall events, or sometimes during unusually high tide cycles when not a drop of rain falls, called sunny day flooding. While much of the focus is on the downtown bayside areas, there are often significant flooding issues uptown along Coastal Highway during major rainfall events. Those issues have been mitigated somewhat by a comprehensive storm drain cleanout program over the last couple of years.

“The tide gage alone is not enough,” said Neville. “We can have a major rainfall event that doesn’t raise the tide gage where we have significant flooding because of the runoff on the north side of Coastal Highway.”

Planning Commissioner Lauren Taylor said the downtown flood-prone areas have been a nuisance the town has been willing to live with for a long time, but it could be time to consider mitigation efforts.

“It’s been flooding downtown for the last 60 years,” she said. “Yes, it floods now and then, but it’s not worth the money to do something about it. Now, maybe were at the point where it is.”

Neville agreed increased frequency and intensity could signal a time to take action.

“Looking at the data, we still only seeing four, maybe six, flooding events each year,” he said. “What other communities up and down the east coast are finding is its time to take action when it becomes 10 to 12 times a year. Once it becomes a once a month occurrence, it goes from being a nuisance to time to do something about it.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.