By Timothy O’Hara Key West Citizen  November 12, 2019 tohara@keysnews.com

Local Florida Keys governments have been granted more time to comment on and appeal changes to flood maps that will soon be released and ultimately change the complexion of flood insurance in the chain of islands.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which implements the National Flood Insurance Program, has changed the issuance of the preliminary maps to Dec. 27 and delayed the 90-day appeal period, which will give local governments more time to conduct reviews.

Local governments have already sent FEMA initial comments to drafts of the flood maps the federal agency presented the county and local Florida Keys governments earlier this fall.

The county questioned how FEMA determined where wave energy dissipates, especially in regard to protections from mangroves, and challenged why FEMA did not differentiate storms coming from the west and storms coming from the east.

The City of Key West has been working closely with FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe) to evaluate the flood map changes FEMA is proposing, city Flood Plain Manager Scott Fraser said.

In its initial comments to FEMA, the City of Key West has requested more data.

“The City has struggled to conduct an independent assessment of pending new Draft Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) due to either a lack of responses or series of unresponsive replies to data requests submitted to FEMA,” Fraser wrote to FEMA. “Data requests — some aged 380 days — having been significantly delayed or gone unfulfilled, have prevented the City from preparing a comparative analysis. The ability to assess whether a draft of special flood hazards or the proposed designation of identified special flood hazard areas are scientifically or technically correct depended upon access to the original analysis data.”

The city and FIRM plan to soon embark on a direct mailing campaign to send out mailers to roughly 10,400 property owners within the city providing location specific information regarding the proposed new flood maps, Fraser said.

The flood map changes is one of the biggest issues facing the Keys, as the National Flood Insurance Program covers roughly 31,000 policy holders and $7.5 billion in property value.

The changes may result in significant rate increases for people covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

The County Commission and county staff have urged Florida Keys property owners to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program now at lower rates, because the new Federal Emergency Management Agency draft flood maps could change annual rates as more properties are in flood or wave-prone areas.

The Monroe County government has made the maps available for viewing online at http://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/floodmaps, so property owners can see potential changes to the flood zones in which they live. The public can email comments on draft maps to floodmaps@monroecounty-fl.gov.

County staff will be documenting comments and providing them informally to FEMA.

The City of Key West has also provided draft flood maps and other data online at “Draft” Flood Maps.

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