The National Flood Insurance Program has warned the Town of Bowers Beach that it could be placed on probation in November.
Town officials have until May 21, 2014, to comply with minimal program standards or face suspension from the program – meaning residents could not be able to purchase or renew flood insurance policies, said Peter Herrick Jr. of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “No one wants to see this happen,” Herrick said.
Residents would also not be able to purchase private flood insurance should suspension occur, Herrick said.
There are 123 flood insurance policies issued to property owners in Bowers Beach along the Delaware Bay.
Herrick said FEMA has worked with town officials for three years to obtain compliance with the minimum requirements of the program. Floodplain violations and other deficiencies have not been corrected.
The deficiencies include failure to manage floodplain development in accordance with the town's floodplain program and failure to obtain and maintain compliance documentation for all floodplain development. Herrick said Bowers officials have not implemented enforcement procedures to mitigate suspected or known violations of its floodplain ordinance. “They are not enforcing the standards in their floodplain ordinance,” he said.
Calls to city hall and Mayor Ron Hunsicker were not returned at press time.
West Pittston, Pa., is the only other community in the region that is on probation, Herrick said.
Program deficiencies surfaced in 2010, and FEMA officials began to provide technical assistance to town officials. Herrick said every building in the town is included in a special floodplain hazard area. He said construction and additions to existing buildings have occurred in the floodplain. “But some of the issues could just be documentation issues,” he said.
Property owners will be able to purchase and renew flood insurance during the first six months of the probationary period, but a $50 surcharge will be added to any policy for a year beginning on Nov. 21. In addition, Herrick said, if a flood should occur during the suspension period, most types of federal disaster assistance would not be available.
Herrick said FEMA would continue to work with Bowers officials to help them maintain a good standing in the flood insurance program. The program, administered by FEMA, provides flood insurance coverage to residents of communities that agree to participate by adopting and enforcing floodplain management ordinances and practices. More than 50 towns and cities in Delaware participate in the program; federal flood insurance is typically 20 to 30 percent cheaper than private flood insurance.