orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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December 22, 2012

Public forum to be held in January to discuss flood map changes

BRIDGE CITY — Dismayed at pending flood map changes, city officials are encouraging the community to attend a very important public meeting next month.

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) will conduct a public forum on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013 to discuss upcoming changes to flood hazard maps which, along with various other purposes, are utilized by insurance companies to determine insurance rates. The forum will be held at the Bridge City Community Center and is open to all Orange County residents.

Flood hazard maps, also called “Flood Insurance Rate Maps” or “FIRMs”, are used to determine the flood risk to your home or business. Neighborhoods across Bridge City and other parts of Orange County will be affected by these map changes.

“Only six percent of the flood plain in Orange County is changing, but it seems like most of the changes are happening (in Bridge City), in my opinion,” said Mayor Kirk Roccaforte. “FEMA is changing the zones and it’s confusing to me, even when looking at the new maps on a computer. That’s why we need people to come out to this forum with FEMA next month so they can ask questions.”

According to Roccaforte, FEMA representatives will be in attendance to answer questions from citizens as will be engineers and especially insurance representatives as rates will be a big topic for many people who carry flood insurance.

FEMA uses Flood Insurance Rate maps to help determine flood risk zones and associated rates for flood insurance policies.

The current base flood elevation height for Bridge City is at eight feet, but Jerry Jones, city manager, said FEMA is expected to raise the base flood elevation height requirement to nine-feet. When combined with the one-foot addition in height required by the city, the height requirement for a newly constructed house would have to be 10 feet.

Jones and Roccaforte both believe some of the areas which FEMA have included in its new flood insurance rate maps are incorrectly listed at nine feet or less.

“I’ve got to prove as much of this property in the flood zone as possible is above nine feet and get it out of the new flood zone map,” Jones said. “If we can establish this, then we can get it changed, but we have to do it for the whole area in question, not just the individual lot or structure.”

Although no official change has occurred yet, officials know it is a matter of time and residents should be aware that with these changes will come potentially higher insurance premiums.

“We need to get the word out about these meetings with FEMA and get as many people there as possible,” Roccaforte added. “The more people who come out and ask questions, then the more likely we are to get some changes.”

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