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Quincy officials likely to appeal new FEMA flood maps

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 4, 2014 03:12 PM

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Quincy officials say an appeal of new federal flood maps is likely after the recently released documents put over 1,000 new properties into the flood zone.

Quincy is only the latest community to grapple with the changes suggested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency maps, which have extended the flood zone miles inland for many coastal communities and have increased flood heights for a slew of coastal properties.

“I feel strongly Quincy needs to appeal these maps, just the way Plymouth County is,” said Ward One City Councilor Margaret Laforest, whose ward mainly consists of coastal areas.

Officials in the Mayor Thomas Koch’s office said engineers are already looking at the maps to figure out how best to handle the challenges.

“We’re doing our due diligence and have been for several months with our engineering team to lay out the best course of action for the city,” said mayoral spokesman Christopher Walker.

Created to better model coastal flooding, the maps have essentially raised the predicted water table during storms by using different criteria to predict flooding.

Map changes have been coupled with a federal mandate known as the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which imposed costly flood insurance premiums for everyone in the new flood zones. Legislators said the mandate’s goal was to better reflect the cost of coastal flooding and to make the National Flood Insurance Program solvent.

Changes have raised flood premiums for coastal homeowners by thousands of dollars. Residents that live miles inland have suddenly faced expensive flood insurance costs despite never having been victim to flood waters.

In Scituate, Marshfield, and Duxbury, the changes prompted map appeals. Those protestations have helped delay the implementation of the maps by a year as FEMA reviews the critique.

A federal flood relief act is also pending in Congress after having received Senate approval in late January. That bill would delay most map changes by four years for primary homeowners while an affordability study is conducted on the program.

Yet Laforest predicted that Quincy will fall in the footsteps of their southern neighbors, as congressional action may not come soon enough. The maps have to be approved in the next several months to be implemented by June.

Without city approval or a delay, Quincy would lose all FEMA support and would have to buy drastically more expensive flood insurance outside of the National Flood Insurance Program.

“I feel strongly that, in looking at our maps, I cannot vote to accept them as they stand now,” Laforest said. “Changes need to be made to reflect a methodology that’s more accurate for our communities.”

Quincy has known about the map changes since 2012, and hosted community meetings to make residents aware.

But no one could see this coming, Laforest said. In some areas, marshes are treated like beachfronts, and waves are predicted to come further inland as if unimpeded by natural and manmade structures.

“Have you ever seen anyone surfing in Quincy bay?" Laforest said.

The changes have already affected property values, she said. A house on Palmer Street, which doesn’t have a view of the water and has never been victim to a flood, had to drop the selling price from $250,000 to $210,000 because of a predicted $4,000 annual flood insurance bill.

In addition to a proposed appeal, Laforest and other councilors issued a resolve at their meeting on Monday night asking to discuss these issues publically.

Laforest has also spoken with several individual residents to direct them on filing individual map appeals and has spoken with U.S. Rep Stephen Lynch on organizing a forum with FEMA officials.

“I need to do whatever it takes to get these maps more in line with what’s realistic for our community,” Laforest said.

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