(TNS) - Columbia County, Ga., residents have been encouraged to attend a public open house to view updated and revised flood maps that could affect homeowners.
The updates and revisions are part of a multi-year project to develop detailed, digital flood hazard maps for the Middle Savannah Watershed and will be available for viewing and public input during the open house from 5 - 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Patriots Park Gym, at 5445 Columbia Road.
About 80 buildings are likely to be mapped into a higher-risk area than before, and nearly 600 buildings are likely to be mapped into a lower-risk area, according to a news release from Columbia County. Altogether, more than 680 buildings will show some change.
Revisions to these mapping products may affect residents and business owners in unincorporated Columbia County, the City of Harlem, and the City of Grovetown.
After the 90-day Public Comment period. All appeals and comments will be addressed before the maps are expected to become effective in mid-late 2017. At that time, the new insurance requirements will take effect.
The new maps, known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), reflect current flooding risks, replacing maps that are based on outdated studies, some which are more than 30 years old, according to a news release from Columbia County.
Preliminary maps recently released, will undergo a several-month review and comment period before they become effective. When the new flood maps become effective, residents and business owners will have up-to-date, Internet-accessible information about their flood risk on a property-by-property basis.
Flood risks have changed throughout the watershed due to erosion, land use, environmental conditions, and changes in runoff patterns. Flood risks can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, and even property to property. But storms and heavy rains cause increasingly costly impacts to home and business owners throughout the watershed.
The first step in reducing potential impacts of flooding is to know of any flood risk, and that's where these new maps can help, according to the news release.
The new maps are the result of a cooperative effort involving the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) under Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Columbia County and local communities.
Developed using advanced mapping and modeling technologies and using the latest data available, they are the most detailed, accurate flood maps ever created for this area, according to the news release. County and community officials as well as planners, engineers and builders will use the maps to make determinations about where and how to build and rebuild to minimize future flood impacts. Residents and business owners can use the maps to learn their risk, and make more informed decisions about financial steps to reduce the risk of damage and loss due to flooding.
Some properties that will not be affected are still at risk. But there will be other properties that will now be found to be in a higher risk area (shown on the flood map in zones labeled with a letter starting with "A"), while others will be mapped into a lower risk area (zones labeled "X" on the flood maps).
The changes may affect the federal lender requirement for flood insurance. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federally underwritten program provided by about 75 insurance companies and available through licensed insurance agents. Owners of properties mapped into a high-risk area may be required to carry flood insurance as part of their mortgage agreement. The NFIP currently has rating options that can help reduce costs, espescially if a policy is purchaed before the flood maps become effective.
Residents throughout Columbia County are invited to attend the open house, Oct. 18. No formal presentation will be made so residents and business owners can visit at their convenience to view the new maps, understand how properties may be affected, review options and learn more about financial and material steps needed to protect their investment. For those who cannot attend, the maps are available at GeorgiaDFIRM.com.
©2017 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)
Visit The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.) at chronicle.augusta.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.