The new flood insurance maps for Jefferson Parish were accepted by the federal government this week and will begin to affect property owners’ insurance rates beginning Feb. 18.

The new Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which reflect numerous recent flood-control projects and replace maps that have been used to set flood insurance rates for 22 years, could mean lower rates for about 100,000 property owners in Jefferson.

About 40,000 properties have moved from Zone AE, the high-risk zone where flood insurance is required, to the lower-risk zone known as Zone X.

Another 60,000 properties were already in Zone X but saw their base flood elevation — the maximum elevation to which floodwater is anticipated to rise during a storm that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any year — lowered. While not a change in category, this could still reduce rates because of the lower risk of flooding of those properties.

“FEMA’s approval of these Flood Insurance Rate Maps should benefit thousands of our residents" by letting them save money on their flood insurance premiums, Parish President Mike Yenni said in a news release.

The parish noted that more than 20 percent of all flood insurance claims are filed by property owners in the reduced-risk zones where insurance is not required. 

“I encourage all citizens to maintain flood insurance to protect your property from an unexpected flood event,” Yenni said.

He also urged the owners of any properties who are facing an increase in their base flood elevation and who don’t have flood insurance to buy it before Feb. 18 because they may be able to lock in their rate under the old maps and not face a higher price.

The parish did not release the number of parcels that will see an increase in their flood elevation but called the number “small.”

Yenni said drainage projects are underway that will benefit some areas in Jefferson. He said the parish is working with FEMA to develop a process to amend the maps as those projects are completed.

The maps, which have been in the works for years and were recently up for public comment and inspection, are viewable online at geoportal.jeffparish.net/flood/public.  Instruction videos to help residents understand them are available at www.jeffparish.net/.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.