Updated preliminary FEMA flood maps for the Chehalis River in east Grays Harbor County and other parts of the river basin, including the Satsop and Black rivers, add 442 properties to the floodplain while only removing 14, according to Grays Harbor County planner Jane Hewitt.
Among those 442 properties are 194 structures that were previously not considered to be in a flood hazard area, said Hewitt. If the maps are adopted, owners with mortgages on structures on the properties that would be within a flood zone would fall under the required flood insurance mandate from their lenders.
The county has been working with FEMA to provide a more detailed study of the floodplain and is reaching out to potentially affected property owners. The updated preliminary maps will be presented for review and discussion at an open house March 20, 5-7 p.m. in the Grays Harbor County administration building located at 100 W. Broadway in Montesano.
“Our GIS department worked with FEMA to try and pinpoint the number of properties with structures on them to determine how many new properties would be included,” said Hewitt. “We are reaching out directly to the few people who were required to have flood insurance and are no longer on the list, and to a longer list of those who weren’t but are now in a flood zone.”
Hewitt said a lender of an existing mortgage can require flood insurance if the new map moves a property into a special flood hazard area. Conversely, if the map moves a property out of the flood hazard area, the borrower can opt out of flood insurance altogether.
“However, I would tell that person that they would be able to retain their flood insurance at a lower cost if they are moved out of the floodplain,” said Hewitt. “If they are just outside the boundary, they still have a flood risk and should consider keeping some amount of lower cost flood insurance and not assume they are ‘safe’ just because the bank no longer mandates insurance on their home.”
These preliminary flood maps identify the areas that have a 1 percent chance of flooding in any year. Once the maps have been adopted, they will dictate flood insurance prices for federally-backed mortgages. Information from these maps will also be used to inform hazard mitigation plans and land use and development decisions.
The open house will give property owners and others information about the updated flood maps and the opportunity to provide their own local insight.
“They can expect to learn about the flood insurance program and have an opportunity to give input with their local knowledge,” said Hewitt.
The maps have not yet been adopted and local input is encouraged. Hewitt said drafters are looking for corrections, clarifications, misspellings and information on things that may be missing in the maps.
If you can’t attend the Open House, you can send questions to the Grays Harbor Planning Division at 100 W. Broadway, Montesano, WA 98563 or via email to PBD@co.grays-harbor.wa.us including your name, address, parcel number (if available), mailing address (if it is different), email address, and phone number.
Flooding is the most common and most expensive natural disaster in the United States, according to Hewitt. Statistics show that the high-risk areas on flood maps have a 26 percent chance of being flooded at some point during a 30-year mortgage. In comparison, most homes have only a 9 percent chance of being damaged by fire.