Our Floodplain

Sea Isle City's floodplains play important roles in maintaining our costal and riverine ecosystems. How do they work?

What is a floodplain?

Often we think of floodplains as a nuisance to development, since they can complicate our building processes. However, our floodplain is also an incredibly valuable resource for our community.

Floodplain Scene

But what is a floodplain? Great question! Floodplains are areas adjacent to bodies of water that flood during periods where water levels rise (like during/after storms, during high tides, etc…). As a result, they are highly dynamic and constantly changing ecosystems that have a variety of social and ecological functions such as:

  • Recreation. The wetlands, beaches, and riparian areas that surround us are important community amenities. Birdwatches, hikers, beach-goers alike regularly enjoy the recreational opportunities that our floodplain provides.

  • Agriculture and fishing. Because floodplains are highly dynamic, they play a crucial factor in replenishing nutrients in our soils. In many parts of the country, the fertile soils found in floodplains create ideal conditions for farming. Coastal floodplains play an important role in maintaining the health of our fisheries.

  • Wildlife Habitat. Waterfowl, fish, and other coastal/riverine critters populate our floodplains, where they breed, feed, and interact.

  • Water Quality Maintenance and Groundwater Recharge. Floodplains act as a filtration system for water entering into our watersheds. They also have the capacity to store water when there’s too much of it and distribute it to our aquifers.

  • Warning. Because floodplains are sensitive indicators of change. They are immensely valuable in alerting us to changes in our natural environment.

Protecting our floodplain

While floodplains are immensely important, they’re also delicate. They work as part of larger systems that are inclusive of surface water and watersheds across large areas. If a single part of this system is disrupted, it can have wide-ranging implications for other areas. Stormwater pollution is one of the main floodplain disruptors we face in the City. As storm water travels across lawns, parking lots, gardens, roofs, and roadways, it picks up trash and other less visible pollutants. This polluted runoff flows directly into storm drains, rivers, lakes, streams, and the ocean. Once it reaches the water, it can contaminate drinking water supplies, hurt wildlife, and force the closing of beaches due to health threats. As residents of Sea Isle City, it is our responsibility to develop responsibly and treat our floodplains and stormwater systems with care and to minimize pollution to our waterways. You can do your part in protecting our natural floodplains by keeping in mind the following:

  • Don’t block culverts/tidegates.

  • Do not disturb the sand dunes. With the erection of sand fences and dune grass planting, our dune system is helping to prevent flooding

  • Don’t dump waste in or near waterways or storm drains. This includes inorganic waste, like cigarette butts, but also landscaping debris. Even grass clippings and branches can accumulate and plug drainage channels. City ordinances prohibit homeowners and landscape contractors from sweeping or blowing leaves, grass clippings, and soil into the roadways and storm drains. A clogged storm sewer or channel cannot properly carry water and when it rains the water has to go somewhere. Every piece of trash contributes to flooding.

  • Landscape appropriately. If you’re located near a waterway, consider using alternatives to pesticides and fertilizers.

  • Pick up after your pet and properly dispose of waste. Animal waste contains bacteria and viruses that can contaminate shellfish and lead to potentially harmful algae blooms.

  • Do not feed ducks and geese. Feeding waterfowl causes them to concentrate in small areas, resulting in concentrated animal waste.

  • Let us know if you witness any illegal activities. It’s difficult to monitor our entire floodplain all the time. If you see the dumping of debris in ditches, streams, the bay or ocean, contact Public Works Department at (609) 263-6000 or the Police Department at 609-263-4311.

  • Develop responsibly. Our ordinances and regulations serve as protection mechanisms for our natural floodplains. By following our permitting process and abiding by our codes, you’re developing responsibly! Always check with the Construction Office before you build on, alter, regrade or place fill on your property. A permit may be needed to ensure that your project does not cause flooding problems for other properties. If you are reconstructing, rehabilitating, building an addition or doing other improvements that cumulatively equal more than 50% of the building's fair market value, this is considered a Substantial Improvement/Repair. The building must now meet the same construction and flood prevention requirements as a new building. Contact us to make sure that your construction is compliant.

Have questions?

If you would like to learn more about topics like flood insurance, local flood hazards, or historic floods, we’re here to help. Reach out to speak with your local floodplain expert.

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