About 65,000 property owners in Broward County may be required to buy flood insurance for the first time, under a proposal released this week for new federal flood zone maps.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency released maps that enlarge flood zones, especially in southern Broward County, using new data on hurricanes, sea level, land elevation and storm surge. The largest number of properties added to flood zones would be in Miramar, Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines and Pompano Beach.
To see whether your property is in a flood zone, you can go to two online maps available on a flood map website (at broward.org/environment) provided by Broward County. One map shows an overview of proposed flood zones in Broward County, the other map is a searchable map in which you can enter your address. Mortgage lenders will require insurance in zones AO, AE, AH and VE.
The proposal could set off a fight between the federal government and Broward cities, where homeowners are unlikely to be enthusiastic about paying an additional annual insurance bill. Palm Beach County successfully reduced a similar revision proposed in 2013, with city and county governments banding together to gather data to challenge FEMA’s maps.
Pembroke Pines, where an additional 6,905 properties would be placed in flood zones, plans to challenge the maps.
“We think it’s an unfair burden, and it’s expensive,” Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis said. “We don’t think it’s necessary. It’s necessary in some of Pines, but not all.”
But Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, whose city would have more than 20,000 properties added to flood zones, said his city would not appeal, saying the new maps reflect the reality of what’s taking place on the ground.
“Flooding has been getting worse, and the resources it would take to appeal, we’d been unlikely to prevail against FEMA,” he said. “Obviously there’s going to be an impact on our homeowners, but at the end of the day, we’re experiencing more flooding and it behooves property owners to have protection.”
Carlos Adorisio, Broward County’s flood plain manager, said a county analysis found that an additional 65,000 parcels would be included flood zones in the proposed maps. Under the current maps, flood zones cover about 105,000 of the county’s 480,000 parcels.
He said properties that are newly included in flood zones may not necessarily have to get flood insurance if the structure on the property is at a higher elevation than the surrounding land.
Mark Vieira, senior engineer for FEMA, said the changes result from better data, as well as the higher sea level and additional construction on once-undeveloped land.
“In 30 or 40 years you have a lot more data,” he said. “We’ve had more hurricanes, we have more ground elevation data than we had before.”
Development of land can worsen flooding by blocking stormwater from percolating into the ground, he said, forcing it to run off the land. Coastal development, eliminating mangroves and dunes, made shorelines more vulnerable to flooding. Another factor is sea-level rise, he said.
The properties added to the flood zone were largely in coastal, central and southern Broward County. None were added to flood zones in Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, North Lauderdale, Parkland, Sunrise, Tamarac and Weston.
Florida has the lowest flood-insurance rates in the United States. The average policy cost just under $600, according to various web sites that track insurance rates.
The release of the maps this week triggered the start of a 90-day comment and appeals period. FEMA will consider the comments and come out with final maps. The maps probably won’t take effect for another 18 months to a year, Vieira said.
David Fleshler can be reached at [email protected] and 954-356-4535.
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