MANATEE -- County commissioners got a preview Tuesday of a new generation of flood maps, set to go into effect March 17.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency maps are the product of the latest digital technology, and are designed to provide updated flood hazard data that better reflects the risk of flooding, said Sandy Tudor, Manatee County's flood plain investigator. The official FEMA maps include 119 panels, plus an index panel.
The maps will affect the flood insurance rates for homeowners, which are increasing due to the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act -- a move to rebuild the National Flood Insurance Program rendered insolvent by Hurricane Katrina.
Based on better topography, some coastal areas of Manatee County are being removed from the AE zone, signifying the 100-year flood plain, to the X zone, which is a low-risk zone, said Tudor.
Other areas, such as the Buffalo Canal area near the Buffalo Creek Golf Course, showed lots of changes, with some properties being newly classified in a flood zone, while others dropped into a lower-risk category, said Tudor.
All the information will be included on an interactive map on the county web site, at www.mymanatee.org, showing the true delineation of the new maps, said Tudor.
Manatee County is participating in a voluntary FEMA Community Rating System that rewards discounts in flood insurance rates for residents in communities that require additional safety factors.
"We're one of the top counties in the state as far as the Community Rating System goes," said John Barnott, director of the county's Building and Development Services Department. Manatee County residents get a 25 percent discount in their rates due to stricter regulation, he noted.
"I don't think we're the best in the state, but we're close," he added.
In Congress, there is a bipartisan effort to slow the devastating increases in the cost of policies held by the federal flood insurance program.
The overhaul of the program, passed with sweeping support from liberals and Tea Party conservatives, caused panic in places such as Staten Island, N.Y., and the New Jersey coast and in flood-prone areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, where higher rates threaten to push people out of their homes. Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.