OC Updating Key Mitigation Plan

OCEAN CITY – Officials say a draft of the town’s updated hazard mitigation plan will be released in the coming months.

On July 13, Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville presented members of the Ocean City Coastal Resources Legislative Committee (Green Team) with an update on the resort’s hazard mitigation plan. As the town concludes its update of the plan, Neville said the draft would be released to the public by late August or early September.

“It is not significantly different from what we adopted five years ago,” he said. “It’s just an updated version.”

Ocean City’s hazard mitigation plan is a long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses and break the cycle of repeated damage. In short, the plan identifies, plans, and implements cost-effective hazard mitigation measures.

As the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requires the plan to be updated every five years, a review is currently underway. Neville noted changes to the document include a new section on COVID-19 response and enhancements to the existing plan.

“We were able to get a FEMA grant to hire a consultant,” he explained. “They are the ones that helped us prepare it five years ago. So we’re going through the process of updating the chapters and looking at new areas that the state would like us to update.”

Neville told committee members this week a new law would also require municipalities and counties to complete watershed studies.

“The one thing that is a crossover issue for both hazard mitigation and, ultimately, when we update our comprehensive plan, is that there is a new state law that requires watershed studies to be done in support of any future FEMA grant applications,” he said. “So essentially if you are going to apply to FEMA for a resiliency grant or an infrastructure grant to address flooding or to improve drainage issues then they are going to be looking for background that explains watershed basins, what’s causing the problem.”

Neville pointed out the town could work with the county in developing watershed studies.

“What we are thinking about putting in the hazard mitigation plan as an action item is this is a great coordination item with Worcester County to go ahead and participate in their watershed analysis of flooding issues and future conditions …,” he said. “It’s a great thing for us to team up with. For the town to do it by ourselves doesn’t really make sense.”

Maryland Coastal Bays Program Outreach and Marketing Coordinator Sandi Smith agreed.

“It makes sense,” she said. “It’s all the same watershed.”

Neville said he expected the mandate to be implemented into hazard mitigation plans in the coming three to five years.

“What I think they are trying to bring to the table is does your plan look at a combination of factors, if there’s a major thunderstorm that dumped a lot of rainwater at the same time there’s a super high tide and an offshore storm,” he explained. “They want communities to essentially evaluate the worst-case scenario.”

In the meantime, Neville said the town plans to release its draft of the updated hazard mitigation plan for public hearing.

The town is also encouraging the public to complete a 10-minute survey regarding local hazards and disaster risk and to follow the town’s website and social media pages for information on hazard mitigation and emergency preparedness.

“The Town of Ocean City has experienced numerous hazard incidents throughout its history and has undertaken mitigation actions and projects to reduce hazard risk and future losses,” a press release reads. “Mitigation not only saves lives, but also reduces disaster costs. For every $1 spent on disaster mitigation, more than $6 are saved that would have been used responding to or recovering from disaster.”

For questions regarding the plan, contact Bob Rhode, Department of Emergency Services, at [email protected].

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.