Open houses on updated flood insurance rate maps planned

PIERCE COUNTY — Homeowners and businesses located near coastal areas, rivers and streams can view updated flood insurance rate maps at three open houses in April.

These maps are used by property owners and federal, state and local agencies to determine standards for development on properties within flood hazard areas of the county. Insurance companies use the maps to determine flood insurance rates.

Changes to floodwater level, coastal areas The current maps were approved in the 1980s. Since then, technology and more comprehensive flood data have allowed the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to create more detailed and accurate maps.

Revisions to the anticipated floodwater level during a 100-year flood, also known as the base flood elevation, have been made. Property owners near coastlines, rivers and creeks should review these changes to see if the base flood elevation of their property has changed. The updated maps are expected to go into effect in the late spring of 2016.

The biggest change to the maps since the last public review efforts in 2007 and 2009 is the additional mapping detail for coastal properties at risk for flooding.

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. Flood insurance is required for these properties.

Some areas near levees will not be updated at this time while FEMA is developing new mapping standards for levees.

About the open houses The following open houses run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. They are hosted by Pierce County, FEMA and the cities of Gig Harbor, Fife and Orting.

  • April 21: Gig Harbor Civic Center, 3510 Grandview St in Gig Harbor
  • April 22: Fife Community Center, 2111 54th Ave. E in Fife
  • April 29: Orting Multi-Purpose Center and Library, 202 Washington Ave. S in Orting

At the open houses, property owners and renters both within city limits and in unincorporated areas will be able to view the updated maps and ask questions about how the maps impact their properties and federal flood insurance rates.

Federal, state and local officials will answer questions and print property-specific maps upon request, while a flood insurance specialist will answer questions about federal flood insurance.

A FEMA expert on coastal flooding will attend the meetings in Gig Harbor and Fife. Coastal residents, regardless of where they live in Pierce County, are encouraged to attend those open houses to ask questions specific to their property.

Map appeals process FEMA will provide information about the map appeals process at the meeting. FEMA estimates the 90-day appeal window starting at the end of May. Appeals about the maps, especially if someone can show the base flood elevation of their property is wrong, are considered if the appeals are supported scientifically. However, FEMA is not required to agree with all appeals.

Errors such as misspellings or city boundaries are considered comments and FEMA will review those requests for corrections. Pierce County and the cities will also submit comments from staff on issues they observe with the maps.

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