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|Flood map meeting packed|
|Written by Susanna Sheehan|
|Wednesday, 25 September 2013 11:35|
Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth residents filled the Tarkiln Community Center last week to learn about the federal government’s new local flood maps, which have triggered increases in flood insurance.
Last Thursday’s discussion, which was run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA) began with residents examining the 2013 digital flood insurance rate maps on computer screens in an attempt to locate their properties. Paper maps were also provided.
FEMA representatives started their presentation on the maps and the flood insurance program one hour earlier to accommodate people who had come to find their properties on the maps and were waiting for the discussion to begin. The meeting was originally scheduled for 7 p.m., but began at 6 p.m.
FEMA has been updating and modernizing the nation’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMS) to reflect changing weather patterns, erosion and development, which can affect floodplain boundaries. These digital flood hazard maps provide an official depiction of flood hazards for each community and for properties located within it. They are currently considered preliminary maps, as they are being reviewed by cities and towns for their accuracy. They will become official in December.
In many Massachusetts communities, a significant number of properties have been included on the new flood hazard maps requiring many homeowners who never needed flood insurance to purchase it.
In Duxbury, there are 39 more parcels and eight more structures on the 2013 flood maps, according to Colleen Bailey, the chief flood hazard mapping coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. There are 1,608 parcels on the 2013 maps and 1,569 on the 2012 maps. There are 535 structures on the 2013 maps versus 527 on the 2012 maps.
According to Bailey, the total number of structures includes residences, garages and commercial structures. If any structure or portion of a property is included on a flood map, banks and mortgage companies often will require flood insurance, Bailey said.
In addition to the expanded flood maps, changes to the federal flood insurance policy are affecting many residents by increasing the costs of flood insurance. The Biggert-Waters National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 has created long-term changes to the National Flood Insurance Program. Under the new law, rates are likely to increase overall to reflect the true flood risk and many insurance discounts that have kept flood insurance artificially low in flood-prone areas, such as on coastal properties, will be eliminated.
FEMA’s regional insurance specialist Bob Desaulniers explained some of changes of the Biggert-Waters Act. First, he said the Act builds in the 30 percent subsidy that was missing from a homeowner’s flood insurance premium. Also in 2013, rates for some secondary or vacation homes and businesses in high-risk areas will increase 25 percent per year over the next four years, said Desaulniers.
In Duxbury, businesses in Snug Harbor will be affected by both the mapping changes and by the Biggert-Waters Act. Bayside Marine owner JR Kent, who attended the meeting, said he has flood insurance but he is now facing an increase of 25 percent on his premium over the next four years.
Desaulniers said if a property on the flood maps has been reclassified into another more flood-prone zone then that property owner will pay more in flood insurance. Properties reclassified into an AE zone will pay 16 percent more, while those that are now in a V, or velocity zone, will face a 17 percent increase, he said.
New flood insurance policies or those renewing after Oct. 1 will be rated using elevation, said Desaulniers.
“The renewal bill will be totally different than what you’ve been paying,” he said.
To combat premium increases, Desaulniers recommends that homeowners engage a property surveyor and obtain an elevation certificate. Then they can submit this to their insurance company every year.
Mark Casey of South Shore Survey Consultants of Kingston also attended the meeting. He said elevation certificates typically cost $1,200 to $1,600 and that he’s done several in Duxbury that have saved local homeowners from paying higher insurance rates.
Local legislators are recognizing the financial impact of the new flood maps and the Biggert-Waters Act on residents, especially those in coastal towns. Representative Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury) attended the FEMA meeting. He and approximately 50 other legislators have signed a letter to Massachusetts’s congressional delegation asking them to be co-sponsors of the Flood Insurance Implementation Reform Act, which would delay some of the provisions of the Biggert-Waters Act.
The Reform Act seeks a three-year delay of one part of the Biggert-Waters Act for any community that has received a revised or new flood map in the last five years. The three-year delay is to give federal, state and local officials enough time to make sure the insurance increases are affordable. The Flood Insurance Implementation Reform Act also calls for a five-year implementation delay for charging new flood insurance rates for newly purchased properties.
Any resident with questions about the new FEMA maps can contact the planning department at the Duxbury town hall, access information online at floodsmart.gov/floodsmart, or call their insurance agent.