Welcome to the Flood Zone! A nationally distributed resource for those interested in flood zone issues, land surveying, real estate, history, and edu

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Welcome to the Flood Zone!

A nationally distributed resource for those interested in flood zone issues, land surveying, real estate, history, and educational opportunities. If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, simply click the unsubscribe link in the footer of this message.

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Jim Headshot

Message from Jim

On October 23rd, Hurricane Patricia became the most powerful tropical cyclone ever measured in the Western Hemisphere with maximum sustained winds reaching an unprecedented 200 miles per hour (The Weather Channel, 2015). In the first six days of last month, South Carolina experienced a catastrophic rainfall event that produced over 24 inches of rain resulting in a historic 1000-year storm (NOAA, 2015). Over 12 dams failed as a result of "one of the most prolific rainfall events in modern U.S. history" (weather.com). Cedric Williams, an elementary school teacher, was quoted as stating, “It's heart wrenching - I never imagined a flood like this here in the middle of the state” (Jarvie, 2015). Unfortunately, placing a real cost on flooding events is impossible since the storm’s economic impact will be felt for decades, and will include death, billions of dollars of immediate damage, lost revenue from business, lost academic revenue, lost jobs, etc. Is it even possible to place a figure on hardship?

South Carolina rainfall

Click the photo to read the article published by The Weather Channel, October 11, 2015.

In North Carolina, approximately 1,200 dams are considered “High Hazard”; meaning if they fail, people could die (Ostendorff, 2015). Pushing “High Hazard” dams to a national level, the National Dam Safety Program estimates 14,000 dams in the United States are classified as having high hazard potential. Estimates of $50 billion are needed to repair deficient dams across the country, but since 69% are privately owned, and another 28.4% are owned by either local, state, or the federal government (FEMA, 2015), repair will not occur promptly or adequately. The risk of watersheds overfilling and compromising dams and levees has never been greater. Hurricane Irene reminded the mountainous non-coastal State of Vermont of this powerful concept. This dilemma exists in every state!

Adding this ingredient into the already powerful concoction we call flood risk, which includes erosion, poor development design or choices, accelerating sea level rise, misplaced infrastructure, and increasing coastal community populations, these factors make for a hearty meal of long-term hardship. Did you know that the National Academy of Science estimates flood damage will double every decade for the rest of the century? Even a drought can increase flood risk since dry land is much less capable of absorbing rainfall. So much to know in so little time!

As a land surveyor in the middle of the program, I believe the main program weakness does not rest with the maps, nor does it rest with regulation, but with behavior choices due to a lack of education. The concept of Moral Hazard is both intriguing and applicable, but often the choice to not better understand the program with sound education best describes the main program weakness. Accountability through education ties in well with a Benjamin Franklin quote: “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. A clear separation of actual risk factors stated above and concepts of perceived risk must be emphasized. Everyone must understand two types of flood risk exist.

Updating flood maps has intention to bring actual and perceived risk closer; a worthy effort, but it should only serve as a guide. With flooding events often comfortably reaching areas outside often the Special Flood Hazard Area, an understanding that no one is exempt from a flood event should be acknowledged. "A map scale of 'one inch equals 1,000 feet' actually robs a user of the understanding that the map is merely a symbolic model which falsely represents that the mapped image is reality" (Monmonier, How to Lie With Maps,1991). Poor underlying data for map creation or actual physical changes will always cause risk separation. Maybe the concept of risk separation should be introduced into the program, or at the very least, rename the flood maps to "Flood Insurance Rate Guides".

With a clear understanding of the power of education, Benjamin Franklin may have been our first program advocate, with other quotes such as “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest", and “when you’re finished changing, you’re finished”. Accountability must replace excuses! Society does not like change, especially when comfort exists, but actual change is often best in providing growth, stability, and happiness. As informed citizens, we have the ability to change perceptions based on experience, observation, and education. We can choose to be prepared for what’s to come, even if it never happens. Forcing change may need to be considered, because a concoction is brewing that already has a very foul taste. The Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012 tried to force a necessary change by phasing out all subsidized insurance rates to reflect actual risk, and much of society rejected it. This is not to say the change did not impose unexpected hardship on many people, or that some adjustments to the policies could not have made it more acceptable, but the intent of the Act is sound. Take some time to learn why these changes need to be made and how it will impact society, real estate assessment, and public safety. You may be surprised by what you find!

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BTB Web Pic

New features include a student center to view records and print certificates, and a resources page to quickly access links to beneficial information.

Education

Beyond the Boundary is pleased to announce our new learning management system, designed by Roundabout Education. We are streamlining the way we handle registrations, payments, and student records, so we can spend less time managing logistics and more time developing continuing education courses!

Jim Nadeau will be speaking about flood as the featured guest on WMPG's "This Land Is..." radio show, hosted by Zach Barowitz, next Tuesday, November 10th, at 7:30 PM. WMPG is on channels 90.9 and 104.1FM.

Upcoming Continuing Education Courses

"Land Surveying, Flood Zones, and Real Estate", Nov. 12, 2015, 9:00-12:00
The Maine Real Estate Network - Auburn Office
Sponsored by Beyond the Boundary
Free, courtesy of Cumberland County Mortgage
Approved by the Maine Real Estate Commission for 3 clock hours
TMREN agents/brokers: Please check your training calendar to sign up.

"Understanding Land Surveying and Flood Zones", Nov. 17, 2015, 9:00-12:00
Mid-Coast Board of Realtors (Rockland)
Sponsored by The Real Estate Learning Group
Approved by the Maine Real Estate Commission for 3 clock hours

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Resources

Not sure where to find agents who handle flood insurance?

FloodSmart.gov offers an Agent Locator. Just enter your location and it will give you a list of local agents!

Update on FEMA's Elevation Certificate Form

Some communities have noted that the FEMA Elevation Certificate form now in use has an expiration date of July 31, 2015. The form is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and they have extended the expiration date of this form to November 30, 2015, to continue its review of the proposed new form.

OMB has indicated it will issue additional 30-day extensions for the Elevation Certificate form until the OMB review is done. At that time, the new form will become available. Until then, the current form is still valid under the Paperwork Reduction Act.
(The NFIP/CRS Update, September/October Issue)

Click here for online and downloadable versions of the Elevation Certificate.

Annual Premium Rate Increases for Non-Residential Property

Effective as of November 1, 2015, policyholders or their agent must submit a completed NFIP Building Use Questionnaire no less than 60 days prior to the expiration of their non-residential policy to determine whether it covers a "non-residential business property" or "other non-residential property", ensuring they receive the correct annual premium increase. Rate increases will begin in the Spring of 2016.

Click here to find out how non-residential status is verified.

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Flood Fact:

According to National Flood Insurance Program regulation, even small buildings such as sheds or detached garages are considered "development", so if placed within a Special Flood Hazard Area (post-FIRM), permitting is required.

An ACCESSORY STRUCTURE is one which is located on the same parcel of land as a principal structure, whose use is incidental to the use of the principal structure. Accessory structures may not be used for human habitation and must be designed to minimize flood damage. Examples: detached garages, carports, storage sheds, gazebos, pole barns, and hay sheds. (Photo and description from NJAFM's 2015 Quick Guide)

accessory structure

Accessory structures must: not be habitable, be used only for parking or storage (not pollutants or hazardous materials), be anchored to resist floating, have flood openings, be built of flood-resistant materials, have elevated utilities, not be modified for different use in the future, and have documented floor elevation.

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Real-World Flood Examples

We have shared much information about the option to apply for a Letter of Map Amendment (Removal) from FEMA when a property owner believes their property has been incorrectly scaled in a Special Flood Hazard Area. If an Elevation Certificate is performed and the Lowest Adjacent Grade (LAG) is higher than the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), they may be eligible for removal. But what happens if the LAG measures lower than the Base Flood Elevation? Is there no hope for a Letter of Map Change?

front house fill

House with enclosure removed and fill added.

November Flood Example

Such was the case for a client of ours with lakefront property. The Lowest Adjacent Grade measured just four tenths below the BFE. By floodplain management standards, this could allow floodwaters from the "1% annual chance storm" to reach the building, and we determined they would not be eligible for a Removal document. Recommendations for added safety and a possible insurance reduction were: 1) remove the solid walls from the area underneath the cabin which created an enclosure, and replace with a material that would allow floodwaters to pass through, as well as allow the next higher floor (finished floor) to be rated as the lowest floor for insurance purposes, 2) discuss with the municipal floodplain administrator, the possibility of adding compacted fill to raise the Lowest Adjacent Grade with the goal of applying for a Letter of Map Revision-Based on Fill (LOMR-F).

While the addition of fill is not feasible for certain situations, upon discussion with the municipality, the State Floodplain Coordinator, and an engineer, this happened to be a case that would benefit from those improvements. Necessary steps involved an engineering study, municipal permitting, an environmental impact study, placement of fill, a second Elevation Certificate to re-measure the grade and the floor elevations, and the LOMR-F submittal to FEMA. The result? Our client's property has officially been granted a Removal document which will eliminate the mandatory flood insurance requirement and building modifications were made to reduce actual flood risk! Our final recommendation for our client: be proactive and carry a lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy. This is lakefront property on relatively flat terrain and risk still exists!

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portland flood

Portland's Bayside area outside of the Whole Foods during the storm on September 30th.

In the News

As Sea Levels Rise, No Fix for Portland’s Flood-Prone Bayside

By: Kevin Miller, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2015
The city is in the early stages of deciding how to address the problem in a low-lying neighborhood where development is growing despite its soggy history.

Regardless what you believe about climate change, here are some facts: In Portland, recorded sea levels are rising, flooding events are increasing, and current infrastructure in many places needs vast improvement.

Bill Needelman, Portland's Waterfront Coordinator, states, "It is going to be an ongoing process of learning to live with water, but also adapting our infrastructure to better deal with the water."

Read more!

cuba

Photo from the Athens Banner-Herald, November 6, 2011.

On this day...in 2001

On November 4th, Hurricane Michelle made landfall in Cuba, causing $1.8 Billion in damage. Some surrounding islands experienced over 11 inches of rainfall and 15 foot waves, completely inundating the land. The country's sugar cane crop was severely damaged. For the first time in nearly 40 years since the economic embargo, the United States offered assistance to Cuba for recovery efforts.

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November Flood Funny

nov flood funny

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson, posted in "TruthDig", November 2, 2013.

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