Flood rate maps coming down the pike


County officials rush to make FEMA’s Oct. deadline

LINCOLN COUNTY — With the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) once again redrawing flood rate insurance maps, cities and counties across the country are scrambling to meet a tight deadline recently imposed by the nationwide government agency, and here on the coast, officials are grappling with the best way to roll out the new regulations among Lincoln County residents. 

“They gave us very little time and a solid deadline,” said Jerry Herbage, assistant county counsel for Lincoln County. “The deadline to get this all done is Oct. 18, 2019, have it all implemented. So we’ve been working pretty hard.”

The county, as well as the municipal governments of each city in Lincoln County, will have new FEMA flood insurance rate maps that will take effect Oct. 18. This could affect flood insurance for an estimated 12,000 homeowners along the coast, and for some who aren’t required to have flood insurance now, they could find themselves required to buy a new policy. 

According to a draft press release from FEMA, some of the changes that can come with new flood insurance rate maps may mean a mortgage lender can issue a letter to a homeowner without flood insurance in a flood hazard area, telling that homeowner to buy flood insurance within 45 days. 

If the homeowner doesn’t abide by the timeline, the mortgage lender can force-place flood insurance on that property, which can be more expensive than a flood insurance policy taken out by the homeowner themselves. Those who already have flood insurance policies can get a lower-cost flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program, what FEMA calls “grandfathering” a policy. 

“The easiest way to take advantage of grandfathering rules is to purchase a policy before the new maps take effect,” the statement from FEMA read. 

According to Herbage, one action county officials have to take before the Oct. 18 rollout is impose a Measure 56 notice, which would allow officials to send notices out to homeowners in the county notifying property owners of the new flood rate insurance rules and what happens next. 

“This is a huge thing because we’re talking about the flood hazard ordinances, and this will involve thousands of notices,” said Herbage. “What it means is that the maps are being redone, and in many instances, there won’t be a change, but in many instances there will or could be. I think we should take the conservative approach in that some property is in an area that could be affected by the maps.”

While some county staffers want to send notices out to every property owner that could see a change in their flood insurance rates, at least one county commissioner wants to determine who will and who will not see a change in flood insurance rates. 

“I hope we have a good idea of how many notices are going to go out and how many people are truly going to be significantly impacted,” said County Commission Chair Claire Hall. “Frankly, it’s our office here and Onno’s shop that are going to get inundated with panicked phone calls.”

County officials stressed Lincoln County was not being singled out — rather, the rush to make local jurisdictions comply with new flood rate insurance maps was designed to create a “paperwork nightmare,” as County Planning & Community Development Director Onno Husing said. 

“And this creates a certain amount of confusion for the public because they’re getting these notices,” said Husing. “It creates a lot of alarm.”

For those who do get notices about the changing FEMA flood rate insurance maps, Husing said county officials can help. 

“What we’ve said in the past and what we’re saying now is ‘Call us, get a hold of us,’” Husing said. “We’ll walk you through the maps. Talk to your insurance agent. Just because you got a notice doesn’t mean there’s really an impact on you.”

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