Flood insurance rates changing

Flood insurance rates changing
This 2015 photo shows flooding at Via Roma in Bradenton Beach after a storm. - Cindy Lane | Sun

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Flood insurance premiums soon will be changing for better or worse for Island property owners, depending on where their property is located.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has published new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), changing the base flood elevation for many properties in Manatee County, including the Island.

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Base flood elevation is an estimate of whether properties are in areas of high, moderate or low flood risk, and is the basis for elevation and flood insurance requirements – and for setting flood insurance premiums.

The old maps were based on studies done 30 to 40 years ago, before new technology improved data collection, FEMA’s Mark Vieira said.

The new, more accurate maps show elevations going up for some properties and down for others, with some staying the same, he said.

For example, the base flood elevation decreased from 11 to 9 feet at Bradenton Beach City Hall and from 9 to 8 feet at The Sun office in Anna Maria, and remained at 8 feet at the fire station in Holmes Beach.

Some flood zones also changed, from VE – the highest, most expensive flood rating – to AE, the second highest, less expensive rating, and vice versa.

New maps take into account wave action, not just the height of floodwaters, Manatee County floodplain manager Sandy Tudor said. VE flood zones could have waves of 3 feet or higher, while AE flood zone waves are likely to be less than 3 feet.

“They are both high risk,” she said.

Even if elevations decrease and flood zones improve on properties, Island property owners still should buy flood insurance, Vieira said.

“They’re on an island,” he said. “If you have a federally-backed mortgage, you have to have flood insurance, but even if you don’t, you still need insurance to be on the safe side.”

The new maps are subject to a public comment period and subsequent adjustment before they go into effect. Property owners can report anything from incorrect addresses to elevation certificates that differ from the map during the public comment period. The process already has begun, with FEMA representatives and county officials holding two meetings last week to answer questions about the maps.

When the comment period ends, local governments will decide whether to adopt the new maps. If they don’t adopt the maps, flood insurance will not available in the community, Vieira said.