Flood Maps Being Redrawn With ‘Unscientific’ Data
The nation’s home builders are concerned that revisions to Flood Insurance Rate Maps in Washington’s Skagit River basin are being based on “speculation and unscientific information,” NAHB has told federal and Washington State officials.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to update the flood maps throughout the country. The intent is to institute better risk management and public awareness, but if the map modernization process in other parts of the country is similar to what is now occurring in Washington, the information it’s based on is “inaccurate and unreliable,” NAHB said.
NAHB is also troubled that the agencies are pushing to finalize the updated maps before receiving the findings of a Flood Reduction Study that is being conducted to guide the process, the association said in written remarks prepared for a May 24 town hall meeting.
The association stepped in at the request of the 600 members of the Skagit and Island Counties Builders Association, “who, along with home buyers, will be significantly and adversely affected by the revised floodplain maps, as well as the unauthorized, unscientific and inappropriate use of unsubstantiated, unreproducible, unquantifiable and anecdotal information to support the important and far-reaching policy decisions represented within the maps,” NAHB said in its remarks.
As a result of the nationwide map updating, it is expected that many new areas of the country will see recalculations for base flood elevations (BFEs) that place them within the 100-year floodplain.
According to the new maps, the Skagit River Basin’s BFE is up to between 6 to 8 feet over previous levels, based on reports of flooding that have not occurred since the late 1800s and early 1900s.
These new designations trigger mandatory purchase requirements for flood insurance; local revisions to land-use ordinances; and numerous regulations, rules and restrictions governing construction, including a requirement to elevate structures above the BFE and mitigation rules.
“Because of the clear and substantial impact that modifying the BFEs will have on existing and new structures and the negative consequences of over-designating so-called flood plains, it is of utmost importance that FEMA and its contractors use the best available scientific information to develop the maps,” NAHB said. “To date, however, that has not been the case.”
The remarks noted that the increases for the BFE for the Skagit River basin are expected to be “extreme and untenable” and the agencies were urged “to delay completion and implementation of any revised maps until the comprehensive flood damage reduction study has been completed and recommendations made.”
“The National Flood Insurance Plan is intended to be a comprehensive program to guide development and mitigate against future loss. Only if and when the underlying basis for the floodplain management program — the maps — are updated using information that meets the data quality parameters outlined in the Information Quality Act, can FEMA, the Corps, the county and its citizens be assured that their actions will balance the community’s need for growth with the reasonable protection of life and property,” the remarks said.
State and federal elected officials, FEMA and Corps administrators and builder John J. Piazza, who alerted NAHB to the new map designations in late 2005, also received copies of the remarks.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.