NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 21, 2012

Costly changes to FEMA maps

Rising flood plains will drive up insurance fees

SALISBURY — In July, new federal flood maps for Essex County go into place that will affect the cost of insurance policies for most property owners at Salisbury Beach, near the Merrimack River and on the fringes of the salt marsh.

According to town officials, the changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood insurance maps mean some people will find their properties are now located in the flood plain and many others whose properties have been in flood plains will see their elevations raised, signifying a greater flood threat in the proverbial 100-year storm.

Last week, Salisbury selectmen said the impact of the new maps could be financially significant to those involved. They will be hosting an information forum to help advise affected residents on how best to proceed.

The televised meeting, slated for the spring, will feature a variety of experts, including Richard Zingarelli, manager of the flood hazard management program at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

"We all agree we need to get publicity out about this," Town Manager Neil Harrington said.

After Salisbury dealt with changes to the town's FEMA flood insurance maps at the May 2008 Town Meeting, residents and officials were surprised to find waterfront properties once again being affected by the agency's update of its Essex County flood insurance maps.

Many of the properties involved — such as those on Ring's Island, along the Merrimack River and on Bridge Road — have never been included in the riskiest flood zones, nor did the financial institutions holding mortgages on them ever require flood insurance.

But the new FEMA maps place nearly every Salisbury Beach property in high-risk flood zones, raising flood elevations 4, 5 and even 6 feet in some areas, Selectman Jerry Klima said. The affected properties include not only those along the ocean, but those on the west side of the beach, along the salt marsh.

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