Flood insurance rates are expected to come down for thousands of New Orleanians under revised maps released this week by FEMA that move most of the city out of zones with high insurance premiums and coverage requirements.
The new maps, which come after years of wrangling between city and federal officials about the risk of flooding in various parts of the city, take into account the effects of the post-Hurricane Katrina upgrades to the area’s levee system and other drainage improvements.
The maps remove much of the city from “Special Flood Hazard Areas,” a designation that indicates they are at high risk of flooding.
Lenders require flood insurance for properties in those areas, and the policies carry higher premiums than those in areas known as X Zones, which are judged to be relatively safe even in a storm that has a 1 percent chance of occurring each year.
“The new maps appear to incorporate accurate data and reflect substantial post-Katrina improvements to our levees, canals and pumping stations,” New Orleans City Councilman Jared Brossett said in a news release Wednesday. “When finalized, these maps will likely lower the flood insurance premiums for thousands of homeowners and business.”
Though the lower rates are good news for property owners, city officials cautioned that all residents should still carry flood insurance even if they are not required to do so. And while most of the city will see benefits from the new maps, some areas have been moved into the category of Special Flood Hazard Areas for the first time.
The largest concentration of properties being moved into the zones with higher rates is on the West Bank, particularly in Lower Coast Algiers.
“While I am encouraged that these new maps will lessen the financial burden on many families and businesses, I caution that some areas will now be required to carry flood insurance for the first time,” Councilwoman Stacy Head said.
She echoed the advice of Landrieu administration officials that “property owners who may not be required to have flood insurance (should) still consider carrying it in case of another catastrophic flooding event.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency first released updated flood-risk maps for New Orleans in 2009, but those maps were challenged by city officials, who argued they did not properly take into account the effects of the improved levees and pump stations in the city since Katrina and that they made errors in mapping the topography of some areas of the city, including Algiers Point.
The city won those appeals, which meant more properties were moved into zones with lower rates.
“The release of the finalized flood insurance rate maps for New Orleans ensures that required flood elevations are correctly mapped for our residents for the first time in years,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release.
“The city fought hard to guarantee the accuracy of these flood maps so that the actual risk was appropriately calculated,” he said. “As a result of significant improvements in drainage and flood protection, flood insurance will be more affordable for many area residents.”
The city must still approve the maps before they go into effect. The City Council is expected to vote on the new maps this summer, and residents will be able to get lower rates after that approval.
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