Flood zone changes could mean savings for homeowners

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – For those residents who are required to have flood insurance because they live in a flood zone, changes quite possibly to the good may be on the way.

The county has been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency the past few years updating flood zone maps, and as a result, some beachside homeowners now required to pay flood insurance as a requirement of their mortgages no longer are in a designated flood zone.  

However, the converse may be true too. Some homeowners are now in flood zones who were not deemed so when the last set of maps was updated in 1989.

“We have not done a precise study of who has moved in and who moved out of the Special Flood Hazard Areas (more commonly known as flood zones),” said Land Development Manager David Hays. “Anecdotally, a lot of the newer subdivisions and even some of the older ones based on the more accurate data have moved out of flood zones.

“On the barrier island, for example, if you look at the Moorings, pretty much all of the Moorings was in a flood zone,” Hays said. “Under the new maps, the elevation shows that many of the houses are no longer in the flood zone.” The good news is if your property has been taken out of the flood zone, you can ask your mortgage lender to remove the flood insurance stipulation.

It is still up to the mortgage holder to decide, but in most cases, they drop the requirement for flood insurance if you are not in a flood zone.

The county is currently in the appeals phase of the process with the new mapping. You can check with the Indian River County Community Development Department to see what your flood zone status is, and appeal if you disagree with the finding.

The National Flood Insurance Program was started by the federal government because the risk for insuring structures for flood damage in high risk areas was so great, the private sector was not writing any policies.

It is a voluntary program, but for anyone to get flood insurance, the entire community has to agree to participate. If a community chooses not to participate, then no one in the community is allowed to purchase flood insurance from the government.

Indian River County has participated in the National Flood Insurance Program since 1978.

The county has instituted even more stringent requirements than the minimum federal government requirements and as a result, unincorporated county residents receive a 20 percent discount on their individual flood insurance policies from the federal government.

But the data FEMA has been working on to determine flood zones is out of date based on the technology now available.

“The paper maps (currently in use) were based on the latest revisions in 1989 and much of that information was taken off of maps that were developed in the 50s and the 70s,” Hays said. “And those maps were not based on site specific engineering, but on modeling that had been done mainly through aerials creating the old U. S. Geological Survey flood maps.”

In 2007, FEMA moved to digitize the paper maps to obtain more precise information and to put them online for easier access for policy holders. FEMA is paying for the bulk of the conversion in Indian River County.

“The digital maps will be easier to use, virtually eliminating discrepancies trying to determine where the parcel and flood zone line is as is the case with these generalized (paper) maps,” said Community Development Department Director Robert Keating. “They are overlaid on aerials. We have all the roadways, and the maps are more accurate, and that benefits people. Because they are more accurate, it is taking more people out of flood hazard areas than are being put in.”

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