FEMA Coastal Flood Map ready for public feedback

Jan. 5, 2019 — In September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and a varied assortment of civic entities, coordinated a well-attended public forum at the Florence Events Center on the area’s flood risk. The purpose of this interactive and informational meeting was to gather professionals from city, county, state and the federal government together to assist residents with understanding, and acting upon, the many different aspects of living in a coastal floodplain.

A main thrust of the open house was the presentation and explanation to the public of new digital techniques for mapping Lane County’s coastal flood plain, along with providing updated information for community emergency response and risk mitigation strategies.

These more accurate maps will be used to determine new insurance coverage areas and the rates to be assessed in those areas.

The 90-day Comment and Appeal periods started for unincorporated areas of Lane County and Florence on Dec. 18 and is expected to start for Dunes City on Jan.16.

David Ratte is the Regional Engineer for FEMA Region X and he was the main presenter at the September forum.

He wants the public to be aware of the need for the changes to the last Flood Plain Map and is hopeful that residents will benefit from new information regarding mitigation opportunities and changes in the physical areas updated by FEMA.

“FEMA’s goals include developing credible flood hazard risk data based on the best available data and using sophisticated modeling tools to share with community officials and the public so that informed decisions can be made relative to addressing the flood risk,” Ratte said in an email. “Hopefully, those decisions can lead to greater preparations and mitigation efforts in advance of the next flood event in coastal Lane County.”

The improved mapping aspect of the process will undoubtedly have a major impact on individual homes and businesses in the coastal plain areas, including areas in and around Florence.

The City of Florence was well represented at the open house, with employees from the Planning Department and City Hall on hand to answer questions from residents.

City Planner Wendy FarleyCampbell oversees much of the staff work done for the city in this area, and she recommends residents, particularly those that have property interests on one of Florence’s main streets, to go online and check the county’s newly posted Flood Plain Maps.

“Property owners along Bay Street will want to have a look, as they are impacted most by this map update. Please visit the (county link) for the background on how and why FEMA created new flood maps for Florence and Dunes City and Lane County. At the bottom of the webpage the proposed map panels for Florence are available,” she said. “The Lane County Floodplain comparison mapping tool link is handy for seeing the before and after, 1999 to 2018.” 

Ratte reinforced FarleyCampbell’s observations and agreed with her suggestions to residents.

“Some property owners will find that the updated flood hazard areas now include their property. If they have federally backed mortgages, lenders may now require that they carry flood insurance. But even if properties are not in the FEMA-mapped high-risk flood zones, lenders could require owners to purchase flood insurance,” Ratte said.

He added that some properties may have been shifted out of the flood hazard boundaries. He suggested that these property owners still consider carrying a flood insurance policy — “given that numerous flood claims apply to properties located outside of the FEMA-mapped high-risk flood zones.”

The use of enhanced data gathering software, primarily from satellites using Lidar, a mix of light and radar, provides significant new information for not only homeowners but for FEMA and private insurance companies. These detailed, high-resolution images will be used to provide insurance companies and property owners with the most up to date and technically advanced geographic information available on the Lane County coastal floodplain.

This process will result in changes to what can be built, insured and used commercially or residentially, on many pieces of property in the coastal areas of Oregon.

“Overall, the updates show reduction in exposure of properties to areas of high-risk flooding,” Ratte said. “Hopefully, this update provides residents of Florence, Dunes City and coastal Lane County with more information on flood risks so that they can make informed decisions on protecting their interests and collaborating with each other and local, state and federal entities to reduce potential damages from future flooding events.”

The release of these newly created maps by FEMA is the most recent step in a process that was designed to not only improve the mapping of coastal areas, but to also clarify what actions will need to be taken from an insurance perspective, due to changes in the flood designation of a plot of land.

Ratte hopes the new information will make the decision-making process for homeowners clearer and ultimately provide information to safeguard their property and obtain the needed insurance coverage in case of a major natural disaster.

“Readers are encouraged to share this information with their neighbors, review the available data as described below, ask questions to community officials, and provide comments during the comment and appeal period,” he said. “Additionally, if property owners have data and analysis indicating that the results published by FEMA are inaccurate, then we encourage that they submit to community officials or directly to FEMA.”

According to FarleyCampbell, if property owners have questions or a dispute with the updated designations, there are options to “appeal changes in flood zones, floodways, and base flood elevations, based on scientific or technical issues.”

For more information on the updated Flood Plain maps for Lane County’s coastal region, visit www.lanecounty.org/femamapupdate.

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