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Published January 30 2011

FEMA maps scheduled for release

After more than a decade of study and two years of delays, the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to release revised flood insurance rate maps for Fargo and Cass County this summer.

Moorhead City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said he’s also been told by FEMA officials that the revised map for Moorhead will be released this summer, followed by a review and comment period.

“But that has changed I don’t know how many times,” he said.

The maps are important because they dictate whether homeowners with mortgages through federally regulated or insured lenders have to buy flood insurance.

The revised maps will be among the topics of discussion during a flood preparedness meeting hosted by FEMA and the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services at 7 p.m. Monday at the Fargo Public Library, 102 3rd St. N.

FEMA officials have predicted the maps’ release for each of the past two summers, but it hasn’t happened.

Jerry DeFelice, a spokesman at FEMA Region VIII headquarters in Denver, said revised maps for both Fargo and eastern Cass County are on track to be released this summer.

The maps are considered “final preliminary” maps until the completion of a public review process that DeFelice said takes at least 14 to 15 months. So the finalized maps would take effect by summer 2012 “at best,” he said.

The revised map for south Fargo is expected to bring dozens of additional homes into the revised 100-year floodplain, requiring many to buy high-risk flood insurance.

FEMA officials and local insurance agents have encouraged homeowners to buy policies now to get grandfathered in at low- to moderate-risk rates before the new maps take effect.

Fargo has seen a huge jump in the number of flood insurance policies in effect since February 2009, from slightly less than 600 to more than 5,100 today. FEMA officials and insurance agents attribute the spike to major floods the past two years and the looming rate map changes.

“They’re well aware a different floodplain’s coming in, and they have gone out, and they have purchased that low-rate insurance ahead of time,” said Jeff Klein, the North Dakota State Water Commission’s coordinator for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Fargo and Moorhead both have posted draft versions of the preliminary maps on their websites, but FEMA officials caution those maps could change.

Officials at Monday’s meeting will provide information on how to prepare for a flood, such as checking sump pumps, and explain how flood insurance works. They’ll also stress the importance of buying a policy soon because of the 30-day waiting period before it takes effect, DES spokeswoman Cecily Fong said.

“You don’t want to wait until the last minute to get a policy in effect because it may be too late,” she said.

If you go

How to find your Flood Insurance Rate Map

To find the Flood Insurance Rate Map

for your area, go to www.fema.gov/hazard/map/firm.shtm and click on “Find a FIRM.”

Under the “What are you looking for?” heading, click on “Flood Maps.”

Next, use the drop-down tabs to select your state, county and community and click on “Get Current FEMA Issued Flood Maps.”

Note that some of the maps are old and have been amended with “Letters of Map Change” that could affect which risk zone your property falls under for flood insurance rates.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is in the process of updating the maps for the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528