PORTLAND, Maine — Two members of the state’s congressional delegation are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be “transparent” as Maine communities begin to challenge new flood maps that threaten to raise coastal insurance rates or hinder development.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, each wrote a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate asking that his agency be willing to incorporate data gathered at the local level by municipalities when considering where the flooding risks are the greatest.

In general, early renditions of the agency’s updated maps, released in the fall, reportedly show the flood danger farther inland than in previous versions. As a result, more coastal property owners could be required to pay thousands of dollars for flood insurance, while development of other lots could be restricted.

Municipalities can use an upcoming appeal process to challenge the new maps. Consulting engineer Robert Gerber has already been hired by 13 waterfront communities in York, Cumberland, Knox and Waldo counties, for instance, to review the draft maps and assist those communities in developing responses to the new flood lines.

After any changes, the maps are scheduled to be finalized by the summer of 2015.

FEMA scrapped a prior attempt at updating the maps in 2009 after a surge of complaints by towns, homeowners and business leaders about what they argued were miscalculations in the mapping process.

In a release issued Wednesday, Pingree said that although FEMA accepted local data in 2009, the agency “has recently refused to consider such input” when considering implementation of the new maps. She also said FEMA has yet to respond to requests seeking the technical data that federal officials used to devise the latest maps.

“Communities that are going to be affected by new flood maps deserve the same treatment that their neighbors previously received and they deserve to see the data that FEMA has used to come up with these maps,” Pingree wrote to Fugate, in part. “This process can have a significant effect on property values and the people who live in these communities deserve fair treatment and an open and transparent process.”

King echoed that sentiment in his letter to Fugate.

“Considering the complexity of mapping flood zones along the Maine coast, the history of adjustments to flood zone maps in Region 1, the precedent of FEMA adopting data from local engineers that improve the accuracy of mapping flood risk, and the enormous impact that changes in both flood zones and insurance subsidies will have on homeowners in Maine, I strongly urge FEMA to approach the appeal process in a manner that is thorough, transparent and welcoming to data provided by municipalities,” King wrote, in part.

BDN staff reporter Stephen Betts contributed to this story.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.