By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City, already considered one of the leading communities in the country for flood-control measures, is strengthening its stormwater management systems in hopes of improving its status with the federal agency that oversees national flood insurance.
During a meeting conducted remotely Tuesday, City Council introduced an ordinance that makes changes in Sea Isle’s watershed management plan to meet the requirements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.
Largely technical in nature, the changes are designed to maintain Sea Isle’s high standing in the National Flood Insurance Program administered by FEMA, City Solicitor Paul Baldini said.
By revising its stormwater management plan, the city will be in position to earn extra points as part of FEMA’s Community Rating System for the NFIP.
“Essentially what we’re trying to do is pick up more points toward recertification of our standing in the Community Rating System criteria. If we can pick up these points, it’s better for Sea Isle,” Baldini explained to the Council members.
Once in danger of being thrown out of the National Flood Insurance Program in 1993, Sea Isle has undergone a dramatic transformation since then and is now ranked as one of the nation’s leading communities in flood prevention.
Sea Isle is among only a few cities and towns in the country to have obtained a “Class 3” community rating within the NFIP, entitling local property owners to a 35 percent discount on their flood insurance policies.
Ultimately, Sea Isle hopes to accumulate enough points to move up from “Class 3” to “Class 2” status in the ratings system, which would provide local homeowners with even steeper discounts for their flood insurance policies.
Over the years, Sea Isle has implemented a series of major flood-mitigation projects, such as restoring the beaches and dunes, building bulkheads along the bayfront, reconstructing the roads, upgrading the drainage systems and erecting berms, levees and rock walls.
In 2020, the city took another step to solidify its standing in the NFIP by creating a special trust fund that will help finance flood-control projects on a low-lying island vulnerable to stormwater.
The new ordinance introduced Tuesday by City Council will have “little practical impact” on Sea Isle’s residents, but is critical for the city’s relationship with FEMA. Essentially, the measure ensures that Sea Isle will comply with FEMA’s regulations protecting natural streams, Baldini said.
“These changes will likely never been seen by a resident in Sea Isle City,” Baldini told Council. “They deal with prohibiting the changing of natural streams and waterways. The reality is, 99 percent of what is allowed to be developed in Sea Isle has already been developed. There will be no streams that will be affected. Those areas where streams remain are in the wetlands that are environmentally protected and we are prohibited from changing that anyway.”
“So this is a change that will have little practical impact on anybody in Sea Isle, but will have the great impact of providing additional credits when (the city’s floodplain manager) seeks recertification for the city,” Baldini added.
A public hearing and final vote on the ordinance are scheduled for the Feb. 9 Council meeting. The measure will also be reviewed by Sea Isle’s Planning Board to make sure it is consistent with the city’s master plan.