Mathews building official Jamie Wilks encourages property owners in the county to stop by his office to look at the preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps that are now under consideration for county use by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) beginning in 2014.
The rate maps are used to assist in issuing flood elevation certificates and in determining insurance rates for land all across the United States. They are not updated often, said Wilks, pointing out that FEMA has been using elevations from 1929 on the flood maps for decades. FEMA has now redrawn the maps, and elevations taken in 1988 are just now being incorporated into the Mathews County flood maps, he said.
Elevations are based on height in relation to sea level, said Wilks, and new references for sea level could affect many aspects of building on county property.
In addition to the use of new elevations, FEMA has designated a new special flood hazard zone. The new data will result in insurance rate increases, said Wilks. Congress has mandated that the flood insurance program pay for itself instead of relying on supplements from Congress, so homeowners will see stepped rate increases until the program is 100 percent self-sustaining.
While county residents will be able to challenge what they believe to be incorrect data, said Wilks, they won’t be able to dispute the flood maps based simply on the fact that their property hasn’t flooded in the past. They will need data that’s verifiable on appeal, such as an independent survey.