FEMA Releases New Flood Impact Maps

Courtesy photo    The revised FEMA 100-year floodplain maps show impacted areas including the city’s golf course, Bay Farm Island, a section of the East End along Fernside Boulevard, Crab Cove and Alameda Point.

The City of Alameda released information this week on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) revised and finalized Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) within Alameda County. The changes may affect the floodplain designation of property owners in Alameda. The new maps become effective on Dec. 21 and have added approximately 2,000 parcels in Alameda to the Special Flood Hazard Area, commonly known as the 100-year floodplain. 

Alameda property owners received notice in 2015 of FEMA’s proposed flood-hazard determination for Alameda. In response, the city sent letters to homeowners with parcels in the new 100-year floodplain, held public information meetings and published information on its website. Alameda, along with several other surrounding jurisdictions, appealed the proposed maps. 

On June 21, FEMA stated that they evaluated the appeals, the appeals were resolved and that their determination is considered final. The revised FIRMs remain substantially unchanged from the 2015 proposed maps. The revised FIRMs are expected to be made available in early September on FEMA’s map portal website, msc.fema.gov/portal. 

Alameda must adopt the newly revised FIRMs in order to continue participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NFIP allows property owners to be eligible for federally managed flood insurance, federally backed mortgages, federal grants and federal disaster relief. The program also provides a means for property owners to financially protect themselves, a risk not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies. For more information on NFIP and the insurance requirements see floodsmart.gov or call (888) 379-9531.

A view of the 2015 proposed flood maps can be found on the city’s website at alamedaca.gov/permits/communityview. Property information including zoning, General Plan designation, flood zone data and general property data provided by the County Assessor’s office in GIS format are provided there as well. The map also appears at right. Areas shown in blue are in the 100-year floodplain. 

In July, the City of Alameda will send letters to homeowners whose parcels have been redesignated within the new 100-year floodplain.  Those who own property located in the 100-year floodplain are required to purchase flood insurance if their lenders are federally regulated or insured. If flood insurance is not required but the property is in the 100-year floodplain, flood insurance should still be considered for the building and its contents.

When properties are located within the 100-year floodplain, owners may choose to have their properties surveyed to determine if the lowest adjacent grade is above the predicted flood level (known as the Base Flood Elevation, or BFE). This process requires an Elevation Certificate completed by a licensed surveyor or registered civil engineer who is authorized to perform surveying. 

If the Elevation Certificate verifies that the grade is above the BFE, this can then be used to apply for a FEMA Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). Lenders have the option of waiving the flood insurance requirement if a LOMA has been approved by FEMA.

After the new maps become effective, all new and substantially improved structures within the identified 100-year floodplain will be required to elevate the structure above the BFE, obtain an Elevation Certificate, and file it with the city. Substantially improved is defined as any improvement whose cost equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure, tracked over a three-year period.

There are several ways to find out what a property’s flood risks are, and how to become more flood resilient: 

  • Visit alamedaca.gov/permits/communityview for a view of the 2015 proposed flood maps. The newly revised maps will remain substantially unchanged from these.
  • Beginning in July, visit the city’s floodplain update webpage at www.alamedaca.gov/public-works/floodmaps for updates as they happen, answers to commonly asked questions, links to forms and informational flyers.
  • Visit www.msc.fema.gov/portal to view the official maps when released, most likely early September. 
  • Visit floodsmart.gov/ for information about flood insurance, flood risk and how to find a local insurance agent.
  • When FEMA provides maps and informational flyers, they will be available at the Permit Center at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave., ground floor; City Hall West, 950 West Mall Square, Room 110 or the Main Library at 1550 Oak St.
  • Talk with a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance provider.

For more information, contact the City of Alameda Public Works Department at 747-7930 or floodmaps@alamedaca.gov between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday.