Like other barrier islands, Ocean City often sees flooding from high tides and heavy rain, as seen in this file photo. Faced with rising seas and subsiding land, the city plans to take aggressive steps to keep the water out, and to move flood waters off the streets more quickly.

Maryland: Ocean City Plans to Create Drainage Team by End of '19

New Approaches, Big Money Put Toward Keeping Streets Dry

OCEAN CITY – Rising water and sinking land are a tough combination for New Jersey’s barrier islands. In Ocean City, officials have put big money into drainage improvements, and plan to continue those efforts in the coming years.

Projects include an increased reliance on pumping stations to move water off the streets, even when tides are high. City officials announced plans Oct. 19 to appoint a team dedicated to drainage issues, and to oversee the maintenance of those pumping stations. That team is expected to be named before the end of the year.

That work is expected to include now-familiar efforts, like installing pumping stations and valves aimed at keeping tidewater out and more quickly draining rainwater from streets. Recently, the city started raising the level of the streets to reduce flooding.

New efforts could include building walls in some neighborhoods, with options under consideration in the city’s south end and the Merion Park neighborhood, according to a recent city presentation.

Federal reports project an increase in coastal flooding, including on sunny days when the moon is right and the tide is exceptionally high. Ocean City recently saw an example of that – one that made headlines in a Philadelphia newspaper, but did not seem unusual to many year-round residents.

Projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate rising seas will mean more flooding in the future, with a greater-than-average impact in New Jersey.

“Everyone thinks the water’s just rising and nothing else,” said Mayor Jay Gillian, opening a town hall meeting on drainage issues Oct. 19. While barrier islands will have to address rising seas in the coming years and decades, he said the land is settling as well.

Neighborhoods throughout Ocean City have seen this effect, where houses on pilings seem to rise as the land around them slowly sinks, breaking stoops from the front walkways. Gillian cited manhole covers that seem to lift out of the pavement around them.

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