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Boston Floods FEMA With Flood Map Appeal

By Marie Szaniszlo, Boston Herald
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 28--Boston yesterday filed an appeal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency of its controversial preliminary flood maps, which could substantially raise insurance rates for thousands of city residents and force thousands of others to obtain flood insurance for the first time.

The appeal is based on a study, completed by an independent consultant, that the city says revealed inconsistencies and potential errors in the approach FEMA used.

"These maps have significant implications for Bostonians," Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement. "We are doing our due diligence to make sure they are established with the best available data and appropriate modeling methodology."

The new maps added 1,585 acres of land to the 100-year flood plain -- areas subject to coastal flood hazards -- which includes 13,709 housing units and 4,202 businesses. All properties with federally backed mortgages or loans in the flood plain would be required to carry flood insurance and comply with flood protection standards in local zoning and state building codes.

As a result, the city hired Woods Hole Group through a competitive-bid process to evaluate FEMA's flood-mapping methodology, data sources and modeling. The consultant's final report found inconsistencies in FEMA's mapping and flood study approach, resulting in about 507 acres of land that should be removed from the 100-year flood plain, as well as 33 acres that should be included. Woods Hole Group also is conducting more detailed hydrodynamic flood modeling of Boston Harbor, which will be completed and submitted to FEMA.

The city's appeal asks that FEMA publish new preliminary maps based on the study's findings and hold a new, 90-day appeal-and-public-comment period.

"The city is ensuring that the new FEMA maps best reflect the current flood risk of Boston," said Brian Swett, chief of environment, energy and open space. "However, these maps do not address the future impacts of climate change and sea level rise. We know that coastal flooding will get worse in the decades to come, and the city has a number of initiatives underway to better prepare for this challenge."

In a statement yesterday, Dennis Pinkham, external affairs director of FEMA Region 1, said: "FEMA includes the appeal period in the process to ensure the community has the opportunity to present scientific information if they feel the preliminary maps are not accurate."

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