New FEMA Flood Maps Don’t Take Several Factors Into Account

Last month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a draft of new flood maps suggesting that much of the western communities would be flooded during a major storm. We believe this classification doesn’t take a number of factors into account, and would caution both residents and local officials to keep an eye on the situation lest we all see gigantic flood insurance increases in the near future.

Though our area has faced its share of water drainage woes in the past, our communities have made significant improvements to ease the problems, especially since the traumatic hurricane years of 2004 and 2005. Millions of dollars in drainage improvements and infrastructure have been put in place to make sure that the communities have protection from future storms — from pump station upgrades, to remote-controlled telemetry to huge new storage areas designed to collect excess water before flooding occurs.

Last summer, Tropical Storm Isaac dumped more than 18 inches of rain on our community in a short period of time. This so-called “100-year storm” — the kind of storm FEMA is concerned about — proved that our communities have the infrastructure to keep homes dry in the midst of a deluge.

Residents in an area with a 1 percent chance of flooding or greater are required to have flood insurance, and if the FEMA maps are approved as presented, homeowners could face a flood insurance increase anywhere from $150 to $800 annually. In The Acreage, which saw the largest rainfall during the storm, only one house flooded, and it was due to a faulty pad elevation, not a breakdown in drainage systems. Yes, the streets and yards flooded, but that is how the system was designed. Since then, many conversations have been had about further improvements, and local, county and state authorities are already allocating funds to begin the process.

Millions of taxpayer dollars have gone into improving the infrastructure in our communities to keep water out of houses. It would be unfair for residents to pay twice because FEMA did not take our future-thinking drainage improvements into account.

There is time, however, to make comments and raise concerns about the maps. The Western Communities Council plans to come together and share data in order to better respond to the maps, and we think this is a great idea. Using Tropical Storm Isaac as a model, our officials can show how effective the area’s drainage is, and hopefully make residents safer while saving them from the cost of skyrocketing flood insurance.

We urge residents to keep a close eye on this issue and contact local officials and FEMA to voice your concerns. Though drainage isn’t the most exciting topic, it is crucial that our communities have a say in the matter.