By Julie Watts

The federal government’s flood maps are getting a makeover and some homeowners don’t like what they see.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has been gradually updating the maps for the past few years. The project is almost complete. The maps show what areas are at risk of flooding. They serve another purpose as well: Homeowners whose properties are in designated flood zones who have federally-insured mortgages are required to buy federal flood insurance.

Katy Dickenson of South San Jose wasn’t happy when FEMA’s latest flood map indicated she was in a flood zone. “Our house has been here for 80 years,” Dickenson said.

She said it has never flooded, even during the worst of the El Nino storms back in 1998. And Dickenson has another issue with the map: “It made it look like our house was in Guadalupe river,” instead of alongside it.

FEMA admits the new maps aren’t perfect, but contends they’re a vast improvement over old versions. The agency says homeowners are allowed to challenge the maps.

Links: FEMA Flood Map Website

Comments (9)
  1. me says:

    you need to do your home work for this report. i watch the segment and here is the info:

    fema can not enforce people to get flood insurance, only the lenders (in their small print).

    and fema was the one whose sent out notices to lenders (in california) in the first place (in 2009).

  2. genomega1 says:

    Your Government needs your money you should be grateful. I guess.

  3. Dan Marsh says:

    Good luck challenging the maps. FEMA has no room for exceptions withoi\ut congressional appproval.

    1. me says:

      No, You don’t challenge the maps because you can’t!

      But you can look up FEMA’s LOMA and LOMC to see if your property is exempted from flood insurance.
      I did just that and found my property was upgraded, but I got faded up with my lender – BoA – and I decided to paid off my mortgage… no mo requirement from lender.

      or you can hire a surveyor and look at this FEMA page:

      under the section:
      LOMA Determination Requirements

      in first item and pay attention to:

      the NFIP regulations require that the lowest adjacent grade (the lowest ground touching the structure) be at or above the BFE

      1. Jason Layne says:

        What better way is there to subsidize the National Flood Insurance Program (i.e. spread the risk), than to have your government force you into paying thousands of dollars of premium into the pool, even though you will never be able to submit a claim of your own. This was a well calculated assult on homeowners rights, and It’s just comming to light now… since in most cases homeowners were never notified until after all the changes went into affect this year.

  4. Joe Public Whistleblower says:

    FEMA is running this scam all over the US to recoup the billions they had to pay out over Katrina. They know full well that the maps that they are producing have GROSS errors in them. The communities “flood plain Administrators” are responsible for accepting these erroneous maps and the cities won’t fight it because the engineering data required by FEMA is very expensive. The companies that read these erroneous maps for FEMA laugh at them as they sent out the notice to your lender that insurance is required. You are guilty until proven innocent…… at your expense! And believe me, Congress is well aware of what they are doing……raising money. And they won’t do anything about it. You or I would go to jail if we tried to pull a scam like this. FEMA you are not fooling ANYONE!

  5. Joe Public Whistleblower says:

    The perfect Scam. FEMA needs to refill their coffers and update their maps with very expensive engineering data they don’t want to pay for. What do they do? Produce bad maps that show you in a SFHA and wait for you to fight it by paying for the expensive data AND, in the mean time, pay the outrageously expensive flood insurance premiums. Two birds, one stone. So it is a win win for FEMA and a lose lose for the homeowner. BTW, the new so called “digital overlays” being used to produce these new maps are being “laid over” terrain maps that are decades old!

  6. Clark Stoner, PE, PLS says:

    Think Katrina. Think global warming. Think this last spring in the Missouri and Ohio River Valleys. The FEMA studies, and resultant maps or Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMS), are constantly evolving.

    Yes, there are ways to revise the FIRMS and demonstrate that your property is indeed out of the 1 percent chance, or 100-year, flood if it can be verified that it is indeed outside the limits of the floodplain.

    The FEMA studies are far from perfect, FEMA simply does not have the funding to conduct the studies to the level of accuracy and detail to determine exactly where these floodplain boundaries lie. There will always be revisions to the floodplain boundaries, and property owners will be affected by these adjusting boundaries one way or another.

    They leave it up to the property owner to hire a consultant to make the determination.

    Julie is just presenting the topic for discussion.

    Clark E. Stoner, PE, PLS
    Civil Engineer & Land Surveyor
    CFS Engineering
    Santa Cruz County
    San Mateo County
    Santa Clara County

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