Giving Hays County residents a chance to gain insight into new FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) was the goal during the course of three open house meetings held last week.
The events were a direct response to an effort by individual counties to provide critical flood plain mapping information to their residents.
Hays County and the city of Wimberley, with assistance from FEMA, hosted an event at the Wimberley Community Center Aug. 22.
FEMA public information officer Robin Smith said the open houses are designed to better prepare residents who own or are buying a home for the eventual change in the flood plain. Changes could cause a homeowner’s flood insurance premiums to rise, based on the new maps.
The proposed maps are an update of the existing FIRMs in Hays County that used data that is over 30 years old, according to county officials.
Updates to the maps include drainage pattern changes, updates to new development, as well as the use of technology and modeling techniques that have improved over the years.
See an interactive map of current flood plains at maps.riskmap6.com/TX/Hays.
See preliminary maps at http://bit.ly/2pfCCU0
“In each open house, it’s the counties hosting the open houses, FEMA is just assisting,” Smith said.
Residents also had the opportunity to get information from National Flood Insurance programs, as well as county and municipal officials.
Smith said the proposed flood plain maps have been under construction by the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority before the 2015 flood event. Most of the data is complete, but residents still have a comment period where they can address their concerns before the maps are finalized and submitted to the state.
Diane Howe, a representative with FEMA, said the appeal and comment period lasts approximately 90 days. If a concerned resident wanted to appeal the proposed flood plain map, FEMA would accept only technical data provided by the homeowner to make alterations, if needed.
“It can’t just be ‘I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s right,’ it has to be technical data,” Howe said.
Howe said FEMA would take all the information collected from residents during the appeal and 90-day comment period. FEMA then would review and follow up on anything that may need attention before any finalization could occur.
“We don’t know when the 90-day comment period is going to start but we hope it will start by this fall,” Howe said. “At the end of the 90 days FEMA has to go through and address every concern from every resident that submitted during the comment period.”
Howe said the proposed flood plain maps could be finalized by 2018. The maps could take longer to be finalized depending on the issues collected from residents and how long it takes to resolve them.
Howe said homeowners who don’t already have flood insurance may want to purchase it before the proposed flood plain maps are finalized in September or October 2018. The reason is to avoid an even steeper bill if their land changes in flood risk designation.
Howe said another issue that concerns residents regarding the new flood plain maps is proper building elevations if a homeowner wants to elevate their home or rebuild their home according to the standards of the new plans.
Howe said once a second public notice appears in local newspapers the 90-day appeal and comment period will begin, then after that FEMA will take 6 months to review the comments and concerns of residents before finalizing it and sending it to the state in fall 2018.