Pierce County flood hazard zones changing under new FEMA mapping project

TACOMA  -  New maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency could change flood insurance rates for some homeowners in Pierce County.

Drafts of the maps were released last month and the final versions go into effect March 7th of next year.  Homeowners can view a document that describes how to download drafts of the maps from the Pierce County website.

County officials say the maps provide more information and greater accuracy about flood risk to homes.  Property owners who may be affected will get notices from Pierce County about the changes.

If you live near the coast, by a river, or next to a creek, they say you should review the maps to see if the base flood elevation on your property has changed.

The new maps could change how much it costs to get flood insurance.  The rate could either go up or down.  County officials suggest checking with your insurance agent to find out more about the changes.

“The new maps are more accurate than the existing maps and help residents make more informed decisions about their properties,” Harold Smelt, Pierce County Public Works surface water manager reported in a news release.

Special flood hazard areas previously determined to be high risk by FEMA have also been revised.  The new areas could include properties previously outside the flood hazard zone boundaries.

For homeowners with federally-backed mortgages, insurance is required.

If you’re mortgage is based on a conventional loan and you live in the hazard area, flood insurance is not required, but recommended.

Some areas near levees won’t get updated maps.  Authorities are still developing new mapping standards to more accurately determine risk behind levees.

These new maps will also be used to determine what development will be allowed in flood hazard areas.

The maps currently used by FEMA were approved in the 1980s. Last year, Pierce County and FEMA held four open houses in Pierce County to show drafts of the new maps.    Residents had the option to appeal the maps if they could show the data didn’t accurately represent their property.