Opinion: Look at the FEMA Floodplain Map!

Dear Editor,

I was astonished to read in the Morning Times that the Tioga County IDA has accepted an application to build a 40-unit apartment structure in a FEMA AE flood-rated area in the Village of Owego. Obviously, no one on the IDA has absorbed the lessons of 2006 and 2011.  

This site is located upstream on the east end of the village and thereby serves as a flood threat to the entire length of the village. “Zone AE are [sic] considered to be at high risk of flooding under the National Flood Insurance Program.” Visit www.FEMA.gov.

Special Flood Hazard Areas such as AE-rated properties are subject to floodplain construction requirements including base flood elevation several feet above base flood level. If this elevation is achieved through the importation of fill, the effect will be the displacement of floodwaters to areas downstream (i.e. the rest of the village). 

Further complicating this proposed development is the requirement that, “Within an AE zone, there may be an area known as the ‘regulatory floodway’ which is the channel of a river and adjacent land areas which must be reserved to discharge the 100-year flood without causing a rise in flood elevation.”

Any structure that affects the storage, absorption, or displacement of floodwater violates this directive. A 40-unit apartment building would effectively eliminate the storage and absorption capacity of this area while accelerating the displaced floodwaters downstream increasing both the water level and the rate of flow.

Hence, before any project receives consideration by the Tioga County IDA, an Environmental Impact Study should be performed. 

Development in an area that is adjacent to a federally designated wetland/flood storage area (Brick Pond) that is parallel to a main stem river (Susquehanna) should never be used for structural development. 

All members of the Tioga County IDA should know this already.  All they need to do is look at a FEMA floodplain map. 


Patricia S. Williams

Owego, N.Y.

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