The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) multi-year study of Monroe County’s coastal flood risks has reached its next step.
FEMA will release new DRAFT Coastal Flood Maps on Aug. 22 to County staff, which will provide the first look at how flood risks are changing, based on studies, using updated information and the best available science and technology. Coastal Flood Maps, otherwise known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are used to determine the minimum elevation needed for construction to reduce the chances of flooding. FEMA has stressed that these are draft flood maps. FEMA is asking the County and municipality staff to review and provide comments on the draft maps, before they then issue preliminary flood maps for the public to review and comment on.
Whenever new flood maps are issued, some property owners may see an increase or decrease in their flood risk while others will experience no change. Monroe County will place these new “draft” maps on the County website so residents and business owners can find their property and see what change might occur when the maps become final. The maps can be found at www.monroecounty-FL.gov/floodmaps.
“While the flood maps we received are drafts, we believe that property owners should be able to see how their risks might change,” said Christine Hurley, Monroe County Assistant County Administrator. “That way they can be more proactive in reducing their flood risk, whether that means building higher if they are planning on making improvements to their property or buying flood insurance now to reduce any potential insurance cost increases.”
To emphasize that flood risks are changing and to make sure property owners understand this is coming, Hurley said permit applicants will sign a form on the County’s permit application indicating they know the maps will be changing. This is intended to help homeowners understand that what they might be proposing to build today, under the existing flood maps, could become non-conforming after the maps are changed, thereby making their flood risk and insurance costs greater. It could help them think about designing their improvements to meet the proposed, draft maps to assure they are addressing potential future risk.
After review of the draft maps, FEMA will publish preliminary flood maps. It usually takes 3-4 months for local governments to review the draft maps and communicate any concerns to FEMA prior to FEMA issuing preliminary flood maps.
When preliminary maps are published, formal public comments or appeals of the preliminary maps can then be provided to FEMA by local governments and/or the public. Once FEMA completes the review of all comments and appeals, they will publish the final Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).
The Monroe County Board of Commissioners understands the importance of this process and in February 2019 requested County staff issue a request for proposal (RFP) to retain a technical consultant with the ability to review the maps and modeling conducted by FEMA and to be prepared to appeal any of the maps that do not appear to be correct. The commission will consider approving a contract for this work with the top-ranked firm, Woods Hole Group.
The FINAL flood maps (FIRMs) will most likely become effective sometime in 2021-2022. When that happens, the county will formally adopt the maps by ordinance and the maps will be used when reviewing permits and the final maps will establish what a finished floor elevation needs to be and determine building and site design requirements to reduce future risk of flooding. Further, new lender requirements may go into effect, as will any changes in flood insurance rates that result from the map changes.
The following diagram shows the tentative process timeline for the Draft Maps, Preliminary Maps, and Final Maps:
For more information about the mapping process, email FloodMaps@MonroeCounty-FL.gov or call 305-453-8759. To learn more about flood insurance, talk to your insurance agent or visit FloodSmart.gov.