Street flooding in Atlantic City has never been so bad, according to fire chief Scott Evans. Routine high tides make many bay-side streets impassable as often as twice a month, while a trash-logged storm-drain system means even a little rain can cause flooding elsewhere in the city. And hundreds of homes have had multiple thousand-dollar insurance claims in the last decade.
Evans and others are working on a plan they hope will help the city tackle some flooding by raising houses, improving bulkheads and installing stormwater pumps. The “Atlantic City Floodplain Management Plan”, unveiled at a public meeting earlier this month (see presentation below), is designed to help city residents qualify for a bigger discount on flood insurance premiums.
City officials say they are also seeking residents’ input on the flood conditions they experience, in order to help them prioritize work as well as apply for available federal and state financial help. Jim Rutala, the consultant hired by the city to design the floodplain plan, said public input will be key in getting attention and funding for the city’s serious flood-related challenges. “We need to know what you’re experiencing,” Rutala said. “In order to address the issues properly, we need your input.”
At the meeting, more than a dozen residents spoke up and asked questions about the flood problems they are facing. These are the issues addressed at the meeting, along with some of the officials’ responses:
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s $150,000 rebate for house-raising projects is not working. One Ducktown resident said he is applying to raise his house but FEMA wants to reduce the $150,000 that is available to him under the elevation program because he previously received around $40,000 for work he did to refurbish his ground flood after flooding. The resident wondered whether there is any plan to raise entire blocks. Rutala agreed that it does not make sense to lift one house at a time, noting that even when houses are attached, only one is being lifted. “That’s not logical,” he said, adding that unfortunately when the city has brought this issue up with FEMA officials, there has been no solution. “FEMA deals with individual properties,” he said. “So at this point, that’s our program.”
- Because the FEMA grant for house raising is in the form of a reimbursement, many people still can’t afford to raise their homes. The same Ducktown resident noted that many of his neighbors can’t raise their homes because they don’t have the money upfront to pay for $150,000 or more of elevation work and then wait for a FEMA reimbursement. Rutala said the city is trying to help in these situations, particularly helping neighboring homeowners in attached houses raise at the same time, under a new program. About 100 homes in the city have already been raised and 35 more are in the pipeline, he said.
- The Baltic Avenue Canal is not working, there is still flooding in that area. A Bungalow Park resident asked when the Baltic Avenue Canal, a project designed to alleviate nuisance flooding in a particularly low-lying part of the city, would be effective. Millions of dollars in grant money was spent on the canal last year to upgrade it, but it has been plagued with problems since. Evans said the city is working on fixing the pumps in the canal but for now it is able to use the canal gate to reduce flooding in the area.”Right now the only capability we have with the Baltic Avenue Canal is utilizing the gates to keep the higher tides from coming in the canal… and we’re doing that all manually,” Evans said. Rutala noted, however, that from 1960 through last year, there were no gates. Eventually there will be six large pumps working there, he added, but that is the “next stage”. (Later, Evans said he expected the fitting and repairing of the pumps to take at least two years. There will be six operating pumps on Atlanta Avenue, pumping 25,000 gallons of water a minute).
- Where privately-owned bulkheads are not maintained, neighbors’ and public property is eroding. A resident close to Annapolis Avenue in the Lower Chelsea neighborhood said her property is eroding because her neighbor is not maintaining their bulkhead. Evans said that when roadways are deteriorating because private bulkheads are not maintained, it becomes a public safety issue. The city could decide to do the work on the bulkhead and put a lien on the private property. The city is also considering ways to offer low-interest loans to help homeowners do bulkhead work, but there is nothing yet that the city can offer, Evans said.
- Venice Park bulkhead leaks. A homeowner from the Venice Park neighborhood asked whether there is a plan to go back to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to request they fix holes in a bulkhead that was built in 2008 and paid for with casino revenues. Another resident brought up that he understood there was an escrow account set up at the time to handle repairs to the project. Has this account been used, he asked. City officials said they would talk to CRDA.
- Dune-related flooding on some beach blocks. A lower Chelsea resident said there is flooding now on many city beach blocks, which were designed to drain to the beach during heavy rain. Since the dunes were built, the water gets trapped on the street. Rutala said that on Mansion Ave near Resorts Casino, pumps were installed to make sure stormwater runs off in the right direction. “The reason that was done is because it was identified in a plan,” he said. These kinds of pumps could be installed on other beach blocks too to solve this problem, he said.
- Lower Chelsea public bulkhead is subsiding. Fencing has recently been put up around holes in the sidewalk that have opened up where the bulkhead in Lower Chelsea is failing. Rutala said that an engineering request-for-proposals is going out this month for work on the bulkhead between Albany and Jackson Aves. The city has almost $4 million set aside for this project. It is not enough to do the whole project, but enough to get started, Rutala said.
- Gardner’s Basin trash flow. Route 40 asked about trash that has been flowing into the marinas at Gardner’s Basin. Trash has always collected in the marshes after heavy rain that flushes the storm drain system, Evans said, adding that it is not a new problem. “What’s needed is a grate system,” Evans said. Public Works is going to retrofit 1,000 drains with grates, he added. This would be only a portion of the city’s total storm drains, few of which have sufficient grates to prevent trash from being sucked into the storm drain system.