Among natural disasters, flooding is one of the most common and costliest in the United States. To mitigate damage and communicate risk, community flood maps are reviewed by FEMA every 5 years, analysis is done regarding any changes that have occurred in regions in and near flood plains and decisions are made regarding their designation in terms of flood risk. Once this assessment process is complete, risk of flooding is communicated by issuing updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).

These FIRMs help guide floodplain management decisions, promote public safety by allowing developers, builders, engineers and property owners to make better determinations regarding where and how new structures and developments should be built but they can also impact insurance rates.

Once the FIRM is released, a 90-day Public Appeals Period begins during which property owners are able to submit technical and scientific data to protest the redesignation of their property. Once this appeals period is over, Letters of Final Determination are issued which indicate the permanent flood zones.

FIRMs that were issued in September of 2020 for the Middle-Potomac, Anacostia and Occoquan watersheds are nearing the appeal period. These regions include the City of Alexandria which current maps identify as approximately 20% floodplain (designated as a Special Flood Hazard Area or SFHA) and for which maps were last updated in 2011. In the last ten years, natural and man-made changes to the area could have serious implications on the area designated SFHA which could ultimately put your property at risk – both for the possibility of flooding as well as for increased insurance premiums.

The revised maps have not been made permanent yet, they’re currently in preliminary stages. The appeals period is scheduled for this summer (dates TBD) at which time, property owners can engage with FEMA on the designation of their site.  Letters of Final Determination will be released in the spring of 2022 and the maps will become effective six months later, in the Fall of 2022. However, it’s important to note that as soon as the final maps are released, they will be used to determine requirements for future development.

christopher can help with your new property assessment

When analyzing a property’s risk for flooding, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) often needs the information that can be obtained from an elevation certificate or floodplain study. christopher’s engineers have extensive experience in creating elevation certificates as well as in executing floodplain studies.

If your property is affected by FEMAs flood zone remapping, and you’d like to submit an appeal to your property’s new designation, be sure to submit during the 90-day appeal timeframe.  Once the maps become effective, if your property assessment requires a new elevation certificate or your development plans require a floodplain study, don’t hesitate to reach out to Kevin M. Washington, VP, Urban Land.