NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 1, 2012

Forum on updated FEMA flood hazard maps


NEWBURYPORT — Communities throughout Essex County are receiving updated flood hazard maps as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's nationwide program to modernize Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The new Essex County maps are scheduled to become effective on July 3.

The City of Newburyport, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Flood Hazard Management Program will be hosting a Community outreach meeting and open house for residents of Newburyport and the surrounding communities of Amesbury, Salisbury, Newbury and West Newbury to learn more about these changes:

The meeting will be held Tuesday, May 8, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in Newburyport City Hall Auditorium, 60 Pleasant St. It will allow residents to view the new maps, understand how their properties may be affected and learn more about financial steps they may need to take to protect their investment.

Staff from FEMA and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Flood Hazard Management Program (FHMP) will be available to discuss the maps and to answer questions.

Residents and property owners should look at the new preliminary flood maps to become familiar with the flood risks in their community and to see whether their flood zone has changed.

The City of Newburyport has posted the new maps and additional information for residents online at www.nbpt.us/Planning/flood.html. The new maps can also be reviewed in Newburyport's Office of Planning & Development in City Hall as well as in municipal offices of all neighboring communities.

In addition, to assist property owners in visualizing the areas of map change relative to their own parcels, the city has made available an online mapping tool illustrating the map changes. Users should visit www.cityofnewburyport.com, click on the MIMAP Mapping Program link, enter or search for the property address and compare old and new maps using the "FIRM Original" and "FIRM 2012 (New)" tabs. Maps may be printed for future reference.

Flood hazard maps, also known as Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps, indicate whether properties are in areas of high, moderate or low flood risk. In reviewing the new Essex County maps, many property owners may find that their risk is higher or lower than they thought. If the risk level for a property changes, so may the requirement to carry flood insurance. Communities like Newburyport must use the new DFIRMs so that all property owners can maintain eligibility for the National Flood Insurance Program.

Those who have a federally backed mortgage or plan to refinance with a federally backed lender will be required to purchase flood insurance if they find that their home is shown on the updated maps to fall within a high-risk flood area known as a Special Flood Hazard Area. Purchasing flood insurance before the flood maps become effective will lock in the lower-risk zone and could lead to significant savings. Residents are urged to contact their insurance agent or visit www.floodsmart.gov to learn more about how and where to get a policy.