NARRAGANSETT – Reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program may soon begin to affect property owners throughout the state.
Changes to the program were discussed at a stakeholder meeting Wednesday for those involved and interested in the Coastal Resources Management Council and Rhode Island Sea Grant Shoreline Change Special Area Management Plan (Beach SAMP).
The meeting began with an update on the Beach SAMP project, which, according to Michelle Carnevale, coastal manager for the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant, is a “pubic process” aimed at developing “innovative and practical policies and tools for managing development along shorelines vulnerable to erosion and flooding.”
The project was introduced at a similar meeting in April and through the project officials hope to collect data about coastal erosion, storm flooding and sea level rise inundation and their impacts as well as the best steps going forward.
Carnevale said policy adaptation and review are underway. State and local coordination efforts are ongoing and fieldwork including mapping and modeling areas at risk has begun.
As part of Wednesday’s stakeholder meeting at URI’s Bay Campus, a presentation, one of the first of what may be many more to come, was given on the reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program and what those changes mean for coastal residents in Rhode Island.
Michelle Burnett, state floodplain coordinator for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency and Bob Desaulniers of the Federal Emergency Management Region 1 – Boston spoke to the potential impacts on homeowners.
Burnett began with the background of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was established in 1968 under the National Flood Insurance Act. The NFIP mandated mapping of flood prone areas, made flood insurance available to all residents of communities that met floodplain management requirements, and afforded communities the ability to obtain certain types of disaster assistance.
In Rhode Island, all 39 communities and one tribe participate in the NFIP.
Currently, there are 16,271 policies in Rhode Island as of July 3, according to Burnett.
Homeowners in Washington County, according to Burnett, where 5,919 policies are held, hold the majority of those policies. Newport County residents hold the next largest number of policies at 2,996.
Burnett said the average insurance premium in Rhode Island is $1,303 a year.
However, more residents may now find themselves in the flood zone, as a nationwide project to update the FEMA flood insurance rate maps based on the base flood, which is a flood that has a 1 percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.
“The maps are going to be a lot better than the current maps,” Burnett said. “They will be rolled out at different times this year and next year.”
According to Burnett, most maps for Rhode Island counties will become effective this fall, with the exception of the Bristol County maps, which will become effective in May 2014.
The maps for Washington County are projected to go into effect Oct. 16, 2013, Burnett said.
According to Burnett, if communities want to remain in good standing with the NFIP “and they do” each impacted community will adopt the floodplain ordinance and corresponding panels.
“This is the biggest change the program has seen in a very long time,” Burnett said.
The changes stem from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act passed by U.S. Congress last year.
“[It] will make the NFIP more financially stable by raising rates on certain classes of property to reflect true flood risk and trigger rate changes for certain properties with a revised or updated map area to accurately reflect the flood risk,” Burnett said.
The program changes, which include revised premium rates, are set to become effective Oct. 1, 2013.
The rates will change based on the zone a home is located in and whether the home was built before or after the original flood insurance rate maps (FIRM) were adopted by the town the home is located in (usually around the 1970s or early 1980s).
Homeowners in V Zones, or coastal velocity zones, which are pre-FIRM will see their premiums increase by 17 percent, post-FIRM homeowners in V zones will experience an 11 percent increase.
Homes in the V Zone are at the highest risk for flooding.
Homes in the A Zone, are located outside of the V Zone but are still at risk for flooding, typically located in areas abutting a V Zone or near a lake, river or stream. Pre-FIRM homeowners in the A Zone will experience a premium increase of 16 percent and post-FIRM homeowners will see an increase of 6 percent.
Homeowners in the X Zone, which covers homes located outside of what is deemed the Special Flood Hazard Area, will see premium increases based on the type of policy they have. The standard-rated policy premium will increase by 8 percent and the preferred risk policy premiums will increase by 1 percent.
The federal policy fee will also increase from $20 to $22 for preferred risk policies and from $40 to $44 for all other policies.
For the rest of this story and more local news, pick up the July 12 issue of the Narragansett Times.