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Welcome to the Flood Zone!

A nationally distributed resource for those interested in flood zone issues, land surveying, real estate, history, and educational opportunities. If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, simply click the unsubscribe link in the footer of this message.


In this Issue of Welcome to the Flood Zone:

Message from Jim: Hurricane Harvey
Resources: Local, Regional, and National
Flood Terminology: Flood Zone AO
In the News: "Trump Pulls the Plug on Flood Risk Management Standard" and "Association of State Floodplain Managers' Reaction to Rollback of EO 13690 & FFRMS"
History Corner: Flood and high water markers at the old Hathaway Mill, Waterville, Maine

Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

With condolences being sent from all corners of the world, including Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Francis, this month’s message comes rather easy.

Please extend your thoughts, prayers, and donations to the victims of Hurricane Harvey!

Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director, Michael Brown, has stated that damages from Harvey will surely be worse than Hurricane Katrina, the devastating storm of 2005, due to the greater number of people and businesses impacted. The governor of Texas is estimating cost of damage between $150-180 billion, but it is still uncertain at this time how much Congress will approve for immediate relief. Adding to the hardship, Harvey coincidentally made landfall only ten days after President Trump rescinded Executive Order 13960, which was signed by President Obama in 2015, to improve the resilience of communities and Federal assets and protect against the impacts of flooding, which are anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats such as minimal zoning, filling of wetlands, and urban flooding, all of which are prevalent in Harris County, Texas. (See articles below for more information on the appeal of the Executive Order.)

Every time a large-scale disaster hits and response and recovery are underway, I can’t help but think of the first two phases of emergency management: preparedness and mitigation, and how much less the impact could have been had better planning and stronger mitigation strategies been in place. Studies have claimed that for every $1 spent on mitigation, $4 on post-disaster recovery can be saved. Regardless of what you believe the cause to be, not preparing for the effects of climate change will always keep us in a costly response/recovery cycle.

It is difficult to overlook the “Butterfly Effect”, a concept coined by Edward Lorenz, an MIT meteorologist in the early 1960s, since it can be applied in all parts of our lives. The “Butterfly Effect” presents the idea that small causes or decisions can have much larger effects into the future, even though much time may need to pass. The impacts of Harvey and other storms would be much less if our decision-making and planning is done with vision.

Help if you can!



maine flood program


Maine Floodplain Ordinances and Permit Forms

How do you know when development requires a Flood Hazard Development Permit? The Maine Floodplain Management Program created a "Decision Tree for Flood Hazard Development Permits" to help with the process. They also provide resources to help you figure out which ordinances are appropriate for your particular town.

Check it out!



The Northeast States Emergency Consortium

The Northeast States Emergency Consortium (NESEC) is funded by the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide FREE assistance to help local, state, regional and other organizations develop, promote, and coordinate comprehensive “all-hazards” emergency management activities.

Check out NESEC's website!



More about Levees!

In last month's "Flood Terminology" section of this newsletter, we talked about levees. In support of that, we have an additional resource to share! For more information, check out:

The American Society of Civil Engineers' booklet: "So, You Live Behind a Levee! What you should know to protect your home and loved ones from floods."

zone ao

The area highlighted on the above Flood Insurance Rate Map, is a Flood Zone AO in Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

Flood Terminology

Flood Zone AO:

Areas subject to inundation by 1-percent-annual-chance shallow flooding (usually sheet flow on sloping terrain) where average depths are between one and three feet. Average flood depths derived from detailed hydraulic analyses are shown in this zone. Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements and floodplain management standards apply.

Zone AO has sometimes been designated in areas with high flood velocities such as alluvial fans and washes. Communities are encouraged to adopt more restrictive requirements for these areas.


In the News

In an effort to reduce federal spending, President Trump has signed an executive order which revokes Obama's EO 13690 and Federal Floodplain Management Standard, enacted on January 30, 2015. EO 13690 was intended to mitigate damage from natural disasters by creating a higher standard which would make federally-funded development more resilient, and reduce the burden on taxpayers to cover the costs of rebuilding.

Trump Pulls the Plug on Flood Risk Management Standard

By Gloria Gonzalez, Business Insurance, August 16, 2017
The 2015 executive order built on an interagency effort to create a new flood risk reduction standard for federally funded projects, with the framework designed to increase resilience against flooding and help preserve the natural values of floodplains.

Read more.

Association of State Floodplain Managers' Reaction to Rollback of EO 13690 & FFRMS

ASFPM, August 15, 2017
EO 13690 gave agencies flexibility to use an approach that best suited the available information and use flood protection levels that many communities have already adopted. Now federally funded infrastructure will be able to be built at a lower standard than is required in many communities since federally-funded projects are often exempt from local flood protection standards.

Read more.

2017-08-08 12.36.17

History Corner

A project we are currently working on brought us to a very cool historical find: high water markers on the old Hathaway Mill in Waterville, Maine. The buildings on site date back to 1876, when it was operated as a cotton manufacturing mill. This building, now Hathaway Center, was constructed in 1881. C.F. Hathaway & Co. made shirts at the building until 2003, when it closed.

2017-08-08 12.35.55

The markers we found were a U.S. Geological Survey flood marker dated March 20, 1936 and a high water mark dated December 16, 1901. We learned that back then, water levels were generally higher due to the greater number of dams present. Now that some of them have been removed, water levels are much lower.

Download a PDF of the USGS publication "Identifying and Preserving High Water Mark Data" to learn more

2017-08-08 12.35.45

Click here to learn more about the Great New England Flood of 1936 from the New England Historical Society.

"The rain started pouring in New England on March 11, 1936 and didn’t stop for 14 days, unleashing a flood that covered half of the Eastern United States."


September Surveying Funny

surveying funny

Image by Wendell T. Harness

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