New flood maps inflate insurance rates for some properties

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By Joe Moskowitz
It has been nearly three years since the storm struck, but the bad news from Hurricane Irene just keeps on coming.
Last week, the bad news arrived in the mail. Many local property owners, particularly in low-lying areas of Arkville and Margaretville, received a notice from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). The notice informed property owners that they are now located in a “Special Hazard Area” meaning that there is a greater than one percent chance of flooding on their property each year and flood insurance is now required if they have mortgages with federally regulated or insured lenders.

New maps drawn
The notices are the result of new flood maps being delivered to the counties, and because of Hurricane Irene, flood zones and flood ways have changed. 
According to the new maps, a home or business that may previously have only been one foot below flood levels, may now be two or three feet below flood level. Middletown Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis said that the change in the flood maps could eventually cost property owners a great deal of money as the cost of flood insurance increases considerably with each foot below flood level.
It isn’t known how much it will cost because it will take five years for full rate increases to take effect. The US Congress has been trying to ease the sticker shock by phasing in flood insurance price hikes
FEMA, the federal agency that is in charge of all flood insurance, is deeply in debt, and Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 in order to bail out the agency. Part of the bailout included flood-insurance premiums that more closely represent the risk of low-lying properties being damaged or destroyed by flooding. In order to avoid the sticker-shock of much higher premiums, Congress is allowing rates to float up over time.
In the meantime, the new flood maps are available for viewing at area town and village halls and there will be two public hearings that will be held at the Middletown Hall. The times and dates have yet to be determined.

From Arkville westward
Davis said the vast majority of people affected by the map changes are property owners starting at or near Pavilion Road in Arkville, with the situation tending to worsen the closer one is to the Pepacton Reservoir.
Davis said the Town of Middletown hasn’t had the chance to count all of the newly impacted parcels, but he said many people will be affected.
 According to information Delaware County distributed to towns this week, 20 flood insurance polices have been issued in Andes, 31 in the Town of Roxbury, 24 in the Village of Fleischmanns, 80 in the Town of Middletown, and 71 in the Village of Margaretville.
Davis  said the maps are “worst case scenario,” and not all properties are necessarily as far below the flood level as the maps indicate.
The only certain way to find out, and the only proof that insurance companies will accept, is by getting a flood elevation permit. That requires hiring an engineer who will have the property surveyed. 
The going rate for the survey can approach $1,000.