In an effort to update local government officials and the public on a recently completed Flood Insurance Study in Jackson County, FEMA representatives held two open houses on August 20 in Medford. Local cities and the county were well represented at the afternoon session. And about 100 citizens that live in the floodplain were on hand in the evening to find out how the digital remapping of Jackson County affected their properties and insurance rates in the National Federal Insurance Program.
Topographic data and aerial photography were used to delineate floodplain and floodway boundaries on properties. The new “Risk Map” (actually six panels) shows some properties are now in the floodplain that were not before. The biggest change is the new map shows far more streets, making for easier identification of affected properties. The map also shows an expanded 100-year floodplain. Shady Cove and Eagle Point had few changes while Central Point had many because of numerous creeks and streams, according to Jamie Huff from the Mitigation Division of FEMA Region X.
The map and the Jackson County preliminary report were both released on June 30. Cities are now facing a critical time line. Before the maps are permanently adopted, cities must amend ordinances regarding floodplain management regulations. Cities will receive a Letter of Final Determination from FEMA in the estimated time frame of January 2010. The map will become effective six months from the date of that letter in June 2010(estimated time frame). If ordinances have not been updated in that six month period, a city will be suspended from the NFIP insurance program, said Huff.
A suspension from NFIP would make residents ineligible for flood insurance; deny federal grants and loans for development from federal agencies in identified flood hazard areas; cause ineligibility for federal disaster assistance to repair insurable buildings in flood hazard areas; and deny federal mortgage insurance or loan guarantees, such as from FHA, in identified flood hazard areas.
The NFIP insurance program was created in the 1968 to reduce the loss of life and property, Huff explained. Administered by the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, the NFIP enables property owners in participating communities to purchase flood insurance— a financial protection against flood losses. In exchange, states and communities adopt floodplain management regulations designed to reduce flood risk and future flood damage.
Several citizens were concerned about insurance rates going sky-high after learning their properties are now in the flood plain. Property owners may be “grandfathered” in to previous rates if their properties are currently in compliance with floodplain regulations, Huff said. This must be done before the new map is permanently adopted in 2010 and those present were advised to get the process started. Property owners should check with their city’s staff for information.
City officials and citizens were able to sit with Steven Kincaid of Jackson County’s GIS Department and look at the map on a computer to see how their property is affected. Several residents in Shady Cove noted their houses are in the floodway, meaning they are in the path of moving water.
Kincaid pointed out how the flood line on the old map was smooth but has “jogs” on the new map that reflects the topography. The old and new maps may be overlaid to enable cities to identify and notify residents who are now in the floodplain.
The new mapping study converted to an updated, more accurate vertical datum. Vertical datum is a base measurement point from which all elevations are determined. FEMA is now using North American Vertical Datum 1988 instead National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929. On current Certificates of Elevation, surveyors should check the appropriate box indicating which datum was used, Huff advised.
After the map is adopted, annual insurance rates will be as follows: 3-foot above the floodplain is $281; 2-foot above is $356; 1-foot above is $531; 0-foot (or at floodplain level) is $926; minus 1-foot, the cost is $4,026. Single family homes will be insured for up to $250,000 and non-residential dwellings for up to $500,000, according to Huff.
Flood zones have been changed on the digitized rate map. Zones A1 to A30 are now AE. B is now zone X and is in the shaded area of the map. C is also now in zone X but is in the map’s unshaded area, Huff said.
Permitting and enforcement of the floodplain regulations is a local responsibility and cities should provide public education. It is not a FEMA or state responsibility. “We really want you to be the experts and answer the questions. You know your floodplains the best,” Huff said to city officials. Although the lines may have changed, the risk is the same, she cautioned. “People think if a flood happened last year, it will not happen again.” It can happen anytime in the 100-year floodplain.
By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent