Update on Flooding in Ocean City Presented by City Engineer
Engineer Art Chew outlined problems and solutions to the town's flooding at a meeting of the Community Association. But Chew warned that on an island that is just one to four feet above sea level, there will always flooding.
Flooding is always an issue on an island just 4 feet above sea level.
And is worse when the north to south spine of the island along Haven Avenue is a trough just one to two feet above sea level, according to Ocean City engineer Art Chew.
The concave geography of the island assures that the island will always collect and hold water after a particularly high tide or a heavy late summer drenching.
The key to cutting down on flooding is to increase the elevation of streets, improve the the network of pipes and flood valves that channel excess water back to the bay and to shore up bulkheads, Chew told about 30 members of the Ocean City Community Association Saturday morning. The group has said flooding is the main concern of members.
But Chew emphasized that even with extensive and costly upgrades, some areas of Ocean City will flood in a so-called 10-year storm, about half of the town will flood in a 50-year storm and the entire town will get flooded in a 100-year storm -- that's the reality of life on a barrier island just one to four feet above sea level, said Chew, a Princeton-trained engineer who has lived most of his life in the city.
The storm closest to that 100-year level in the past 50 years was the Dec. 11, 1992 nor'easter. It produced higher tides than the Hurricane of 1944, Hurricane Gloria, and several other nor'easters, according to a chart presented by Chew. The '92 storm flooded vast swaths of the city.
But flooding can be lessened.
The city administration is looking at replacing three faulty storm valves -- meant to let precipitation flow into the bay, but block salt water inflow due to high tides.
Those valves—at 15th Street, 4th Street and 6th Street—are more than 20 years old and no longer working well.
Business Administrator Mike Dattilo added that the valves were not serviced and maintained well after being installed, but a new maintenance schedule is now in place for flood valves.
The city is also planning to repave and elevate streets around the city to better channel excess water back toward the bay, as well as replace several bulkheads on city land.
Chew said bulkheads don't keep water out so much as keep land in, adding that bulkheads are not watertight -- and of course a very high tide can over top them.
The city is also looking at plans to eliminate stormwater outfall pipes on the beach whenever possible because they are unsightly and channel non-point pollution into the ocean, sometimes leading to unwanted beach closings.
The city is studying which new flood-control projects to fund; Dattilo told the crowd he believes the city will propose a capital expense of $7 million to $7.5 million for the coming fiscal year, with much of that earmarked for flood-related improvements.
The city is looking into putting real-time tide readings on its revamped website in the coming weeks, said Chew. That should allow everyone to monitor flood readings, even if they are not on the island.
By the way, brace yourself for at least minor flooding on Christmas and possibly worse flooding if the weather is nasty: a so-called spring tide, caused by gravitational pull of the moon, is forecast for Dec. 25.