New flood maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could change flood insurance rates for some properties when they go into effect March 7, 2017.
Drafts of the new flood maps were released Sept. 7. Homeowners can view a document that describes how to download drafts of the maps from the Pierce County website at www.piercecountywa.org/getfloodmap.
The maps provide homeowners with more information and greater accuracy about the flood risk to their homes. Homeowners affected by the new maps and insurance agents will receive notices from Pierce County about the impending changes.
Property owners near coastlines, rivers and creeks should review the maps to see if the base flood elevation on their property has changed. The new maps could change their flood insurance and either save them money or require a rate increase. Property owners are encouraged to contact their insurance agents to discuss these changes.
“The new maps are more accurate than the existing maps and help residents make more informed decisions about their properties,” said Harold Smelt, Pierce County Public Works surface water manager.
Changes to the maps
The biggest change to the maps is the additional mapping detail for coastal properties at risk for flooding.
Additionally, many homes built on high ground will no longer be shown as at risk and will not be required to purchase high cost flood insurance.
Special flood hazard areas – specific places in the county identified as high risk by the FEMA – have also been revised and might include properties previously outside of these areas on the current maps. For properties in these areas with federally-backed mortgages, insurance is required. Although not required, Flood insurance is recommended for all other properties in these mapped hazard areas.
Some areas near levees will not receive updated maps at this time. FEMA is developing new mapping standards to more accurately determine risk behind levees.
These new maps will also be used by federal and state agencies, cities and the county to determine what development will be allowed on properties within flood hazard areas of the county. Insurance companies will use the new maps to determine flood insurance rates.
The maps currently used by FEMA, state and county agencies were approved in the 1980s. Since then, technology and more comprehensive flood data have allowed FEMA to create more detailed and accurate maps.
In April and May 2015, Pierce County and FEMA held four open houses in Pierce County to show drafts of the new maps. Residents had the option to appeal the maps if they could demonstrate that the data didn’t accurately represent their property. Any successful appeals were incorporated into the new maps.