Changes to flood maps may require some homeowners to purchase flood insurance

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RBC | The Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Rio Blanco County have been released and on July 21, representatives from infrastructure firm AECOM, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the National Flood Insurance Program, and FEMA met with community members in Rangely and helped answer property owners questions via virtual meeting. The meeting was hosted by the Town of Rangely with Town Manager Lisa Piering and Rangely Town Planner/Engineer Jocelyn Mullen in attendance. Communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) must keep risk information up to date. The National Flood Insurance Program is a voluntary program that allows homeowners to buy insurance based on Zones and be eligible for federal assistance. This program is overseen by FEMA and partners, managed by communities, and enforced by lenders. Engineers determine new and changed risks, which are used to determine requirements, and allows discounts for reduced risks. Current county flood insurance maps date back to 1981. Rio Blanco County has been a part of the program since Feb. 16, 1990. The effective maps were released in 2001. Study data was collected in 2013, 2016, and 2018. This year community leaders and FEMA are reviewing the study’s findings. Preliminary FIRMs have been released and will be followed by an appeal period. The FIRMs become effective in 2021.

Models are based on conditions from topographic data and survey and the best available information at the time. Total affected structures in the 1% annual chance flood zone analysis countywide currently is 476 structures. The new model has removed 109 structures and added 56. In Rangely 161 structures are in the 1% flood zone areas, in Meeker just 27.  Twenty-eight structures were removed in Rangely and 16 in Meeker. Forty-four structures in the 1% zone were added in Rangely to the most recent proposed mapping and 11 in Meeker. Unincorporated Rio Blanco County has 288 structures in the 1% and the total removed was 65. New Zone A analysis shows 162 structures and the Digitized Effective Zone is 89. (These numbers reflect approximate building counts.)  This means risk increased in some areas and decreased in other areas.

How could this impact structures added to the flood zones? Flood insurance will be required for federally backed mortgages in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). It will also be required for federal assistance after floods. Zone A, AE, AH, AO will be affected and will need to purchase flood insurance. New Zones go into effect with effective FIRMs, not before, which means Rio Blanco County residents with structures in the flood zones will need to seek flood insurance coverage as soon as possible.

A home can be rated three ways: 

• With an Elevation Certificate (EC) done by a licensed surveyor, engineer or architect.

• Newly Mapped rates which increase 15-25% annually until an EC is provided to agent

• A home can be grandfathered in by a loyal customer policy or built in compliance. The Loyal Customer Grandfathered Policy applies to homes purchased before or within 12 months following a map revision and never letting the flood insurance coverage lapse. Built in Compliance Grandfathered Policy applies to homes purchased with an EC and/or prior map showing the home was built in compliance at the time it was built or letter from the local floodplain administrator. Policies may be transferred to a new homeowner from the prior owner to maintain any of these types of rating.

Was your property added or removed from the 1% flood zone areas? You can view preliminary FIRMs by visiting the FEMA Map Service Center (MSC) or FEMA National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL)

By ROXIE FROMANG | Special to the Herald Times