Delaware Floodplain and Drainage Advisory Committee Begins Work That Will Help Protect Lives And Property From Flooding
DOVER – Delaware’s Floodplain and Drainage Advisory Committee, created as a result of new legislation – Senate Bill 64, recently held its first meeting. The Committee has been charged with developing recommendations for improving floodplain management and drainage that will help protect lives and property from flooding.
With a mean elevation of just 60 feet above sea level, Delaware is especially vulnerable to flooding from rising sea levels and coastal storms. More than 331 square miles of Delaware’s land mass, or about 17 percent, are within a mapped 100 year floodplain. From urban areas to farming communities, flooding and drainage issues affect most Delawareans at one time or another.
“Flooding has been a problem for many Delaware homes and businesses, causing millions of dollars worth of property damage,” said Governor Jack Markell, who signed Senate Bill 64 into law on August 17, 2011. “This law brings together a variety of Delawareans, providing a forum to identify practices that will prevent or minimize flooding. The goal is to let communities and businesses focus on families and jobs instead of dealing with floods.”
State expenditures to resolve flooding and drainage problems have cost taxpayers an estimated $65 million since 1996. Currently, approximately 500 drainage projects remain to be completed throughout the state with an estimated cost of $58 million. In addition, flood insurance claims add millions of dollars a year to that total.
Regulations which govern construction activities in Delaware’s floodplain consist largely of county and municipal regulations adopted to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In many areas, communities have adopted regulations which minimally meet NFIP standards.
“By modernizing outdated standards and codes, Delaware will minimize property damage from flooding and save millions of dollars,” said Secretary O’Mara. “Senate Bill 64 makes it possible to implement minimum protective standards and on-going and long term improvement measures that are consistent across the state.”
Senate Bill 64 directs Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara to develop guidance and minimum standards for improved floodplain management and drainage based upon the recommendations of the Floodplain and Drainage Advisory Committee. The 21-member committee, comprised of individuals from private and public organizations, as well as state, federal and municipal governments, will evaluate the current capacity of local governments to implement revised floodplain and drainage standards.
“As one of its charges, the Committee will examine whether existing policies and practices provide adequate notifications to prospective property buyers of existing flooding and drainage issues,” said DNREC Division of Watershed Stewardship Director Frank Piorko, who also serves as Chair of the Floodplain and Drainage Advisory Committee. “We’ll also discuss the role that smarter construction practices and education play in reducing flood risk and the overall cost of flood insurance.”
DNREC will provide technical assistance to local governments in assessing the standards and will to continue to update floodplain maps. In addition, DNREC’s Secretary is afforded greater flexibility to waive regulatory requirements for emergencies to protect public health and safety and property.