Some homeowners and business owners in the towns of Wareham and Mattapoisett may soon be compelled to purchase flood insurance due to a revised Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that was discussed at a FEMA Public Outreach Meeting for the Tri-Town on Tuesday, September 25.
Timothy Hillier of CDM Smith, a mapping partner to FEMA, announced the revisions at the meeting held at Old Rochester Regional High School, which was attended by about 100 people. He estimates that about 166 properties could be affected “in a negative way” because these properties are now seen as having an elevated risk of flooding and may be compelled to purchase flood insurance.
On July 17, FEMA issued a new FIRM for Plymouth County, including the communities of Marion, Mattapoisett and Wareham. The maps show the extent to which areas are at risk of flooding from the base (one percent annual chance) flood. These areas, also known as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs), are where floodplain management regulations are enforced and where the mandatory purchase of insurance can apply.
Hillier stated subsequent analysis identified errors in the FIRM from July 17; FEMA is now undertaking a mapping correctional process. The process will add SFHAs to areas within Mattapoisett and Wareham but not to Marion.
Federally-regulated or insured mortgage lenders require flood insurance on properties located in SFHAs. These properties will be sent a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) stating that they are now to be found in the floodplain area with an elevated risk of flooding.
LOMRs have already been sent to the property addresses but not necessarily to the property owners, Hillier said. In addition, announcements will be posted in the federal register and in local newspapers.
A 90-day public commentary and appeal period will follow these announcements, which are expected in the near future. Comments in this appeal period may be sent to the LOMC Clearinghouse at 7390 Coca Cola Drive, Suite 204, Hanover, MD 21076.
The revisions are then expected to go into effect in December of 2012. You can also view the LOMR for your community by visiting www.starr-team.com/starr/LOMR/Pages/Regional.aspx.
Several property owners expressed outrage at the revisions during the public hearing and questioned FEMA officials about why the changes are necessary.
“The reason is … we have more information and better engineering analysis with how water interacts with land mass,” said David Mendelsohn, a FEMA outreach official. “And conditions have changed. Sea level has gone up about one foot in the Atlantic Ocean in the last 100 years.”
On a positive note, Hillier said about 137 properties will be issued a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) because these properties were inappropriately identified in the floodplain areas.
Property owners who receive a LOMA may be eligible for a reduced insurance premium or a refund due to the decreased risk of flooding in these areas, said Chris Markesich, a flood insurance specialist with FEMA.
The following map panels are expected to be revised with either an increased or decreased chance of flooding: 0489, 0557, 0559, 0564, 0567, 0568, 0576, 0578, 0579, 0581 and 0582.
A Physical Map Revision (PMR) that combines all of the revisions is expected to go into effect in the summer of 2012, following an appeal period of a preliminary PMR.
Property owners should contact FEMA or their insurance agents with any related questions. Many flood insurance questions may be answered by visiting www.floodsmart.gov, where you can use tools under the Insurance Center to determine policy coverage and estimate rates, as well as to find an insurance agent in your area.
For the best local guidance, property owners and other interested parties with questions on the FEMA-initiated LOMR process should contact Timothy Hillier at 617-452-6317.
By Scott Giordano