KEY WEST, FL – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners took measures Wednesday to address the upcoming release of FEMA’s draft Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which are expected in April. This is followed by the publication of preliminary maps, likely during the summer, and the final floodplain maps about a year later.

The County must adopt the final floodplain maps for the approximately 15,000 policy owners in unincorporated Monroe County to remain in the National Flood Insurance Program.

To help County staff with review of the draft and preliminary maps and provide public presentation of the new maps, the County hired Bender Consulting Services. On Wednesday, the BOCC approved amending his contract not to exceed $50,000 at the monthly meeting at the Harvey Government Center.

The BOCC also approved developing a Request for Proposal to retain a data and modeling expert, which may be needed if the County decides to appeal the new floodplain maps. The estimated cost of the expert is $225,000.

To be proactive, the BOCC also directed County staff to proceed with a land development code amendment to Chapter 122, the Floodplain Ordinance, and Chapter 138, the Rate of Growth Ordinance – ROGO, to begin the process of adopting the new maps and potentially regulating new construction and substantial improvement to preliminary maps, pending staff review of the maps to ensure technical accuracy.

The BOCC also directed County staff to research the pros and cons of a possible land development code amendment that would require a 3-foot “freeboard” requirement, which is 2 feet above the 1-foot freeboard requirement in the Florida Building Code. Freeboard is the area above the base flood elevation, which is 1 percent above the annual chance flood level. If a house is built utilizing a 3-foot freeboard, flood insurance is discounted each year. Freeboard also is a method for building to account for sea level rise, which FEMA does not use in its mapping methodology.

FEMA began the updating process for Monroe County floodplain maps 4 ½ years ago. The process included a Coastal Study. The data for Monroe County’s current Coastal Study is outdated, with surge analysis that is 30 to 40 years old. It also has limited detail profiling of the coastline; climate data that is from the 1970s; and it was done before extensive development and land alterations.

These updated coastal flood hazard maps use updated elevation data, new climatological data based upon recent storms, and the latest coastal hazard modeling technology. The maps also will help guide future building, planning, mitigation and flood insurance decisions for the county’s incorporated and unincorporated governments, residents and business owners.

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