|
|
The Lake News Online
  • FEMA reassessing Flood Insurance Rate Maps

  • As a result of a meeting between FEMA Region VII staff, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, and officials from Camden County that took place in February, FEMA staff has been reaching out to local officials and are currently reassessing the Flood Insurance Study and current Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) at the Lake of the Ozarks.
    • email print
  • »  RELATED CONTENT
  • As a result of a meeting between FEMA Region VII staff, U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, and officials from Camden County that took place in February, FEMA staff has been reaching out to local officials and are currently reassessing the Flood Insurance Study and current Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) at the Lake of the Ozarks.
    Camden County has continued to see a heavy load of amendments to its flood plain maps more than three years after the adoption of new FIRMs.
    From Aug. 1, 2013 to Aug. 1, 2014, Camden County had 180 Letters of Map Amendments (LOMAs) officially removing structures from the flood hazard area designated by engineers with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to Michael Cappannari, External Affairs Director for FEMA Region VII. In comparison, Miller County had 40 during that time period and Morgan County had six.
    Since the new FIRMs were adopted in June 2011, Camden County has had a total of 1,250 LOMAs, according to FEMA's Map Service Center, while Morgan County has had a total of 302 and Miller 52. Those numbers do not include revalidations.
    Cappannari characterized Camden County's number as "very active but not 'unusually' high" and noted that there are many factors that can contribute to a high volume of LOMAs.
    Buildings with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders in areas designated as high risk — an annual flood hazard risk of 1 percent — are required to have flood insurance. For structures in moderate to low risk areas, insurance is recommended but not required.
    In the February meeting, industry professionals stated concern with the new FIRMs for the Lake of the Ozarks region and their impact on the economy. The new maps placed more land within the flood hazard areas requiring insurance.
    While many properties may be in the flood hazard zone, the structures themselves don't necessarily lie in the flood zone. A map amendment to avoid flood insurance is possible by mitigation efforts to elevate the structure above the hazard area and/or by proving the structure is above the flood hazard boundary through a survey.
    A flood zone overlay can be viewed on the Camden County GIS digital map to give owners an idea of where their waterfront structure lies in relation to the flood hazard area, but the FIRMs lack the level of elevation detail for situations that are close. A flood certificate survey showing where the building is located vertically is required for a LOMA.
    A comparison of the FIRMs on Camden County GIS with the LOMAs issued by FEMA shows that there are structures which appear to be in the flood hazard zone which have been issued LOMAs.
    According to real estate professionals at the meeting in February, last minute flags from lenders on properties being located within the flood hazard zone can make a huge difference in costs and time, hindering sales of houses as the process for a LOMA gets underway or the potential new owner has to consider the cost of flood insurance.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Lake contingent argued that the maps were not accurate or precise enough, throwing too many property owners into the LOMA process.
    The studies used to develop FIRMs utilize a complex engineering formula using hydrologic and hydraulic analysis — the probabilities for the amount of flood flow based on rainfall and runoff data and river flow combined with the topography.
    More detailed LIDAR maps were not used to create the FIRMs for the Lake area, according to Cappannari, but FEMA staff utilized the best topographic data that was available to them at the time. LIDAR is a laser light technology that measures distance and is utilized to produce high resolution maps.
    "The mapping program that FEMA employs is funded by Congress, and while LIDAR might be more accurate when it comes to granular level data, it is also more expensive. In order to be as accurate as possible, we utilize all the tools at our disposal while operating under the current funding parameters," Cappannari said.
    Utilizing LIDAR technology would have a greater impact on mapping gently sloping areas than on steep hillsides. So while it might effect some areas on the lake-area FIRMs, the extent of changes with LIDAR is uncertain, he said.
    At the meeting in February, there was some discussion about local participation in helping to fund LIDAR mapping to improve the accuracy of the FIRMs.
    Lake-area officials also pushed for more use of actuarial data in FEMA's formula for determining flood risk levels to lower the high risk area and get more structures out of the flood plain. With the controls of Bagnell and Truman dams and historic lake levels, they argued that many properties now in the flood hazard area will never flood.
    Along the main channel of the Lake of the Ozarks, the boundary for high risk flooding is generally set at an elevation of 664 feet, but the contour level rises where narrower tributaries enter the lake and are not controlled by a dam.
    The elevation of the top of Bagnell Dam is 670 feet. According to Ameren Missouri, the highest level recorded for the main part of the lake is 665, and since Truman Dam was completed in 1979, the highest level has been 664.
    Lakefront property on the Niangua Arm particularly saw a significant increase in land lying within the flood plain with the new maps. The further back up the arm of the lake toward the Niangua River tributary, the flood elevation rises to 668 and gets to up 672 in places.
    There was concern that the higher flood plain determination in this less developed part of the Lake could strangle future interest in development there.
    It is also possible that the number of LOMAs in Camden County was impacted by the resurgence of the real estate market at the Lake following the national recession in the 2009-10 time frame as foreclosures increased and more houses went up for sale.

        calendar