As part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Flood Map Modernization Program, new flood zone maps will take effect in Yolo County on June 18.
Originally issued in Dec. 2008, the new flood zone maps have significantly expanded the area of high-risk flood zones within the county.
According to Eric Simmons, a FEMA senior engineer, the agency creates the maps to help administer the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides flood insurance in more than 2,000 communities across the country.
“Several years ago FEMA embarked on a map modernization program,” he said. “The goal was to create digital flood maps throughout the nation.”
The maps reflect areas of high, moderate and low flood risk.
“We now know that many areas behind levees are in fact at a high [flood] risk and not at a moderate risk that is reflected on older maps,” Simmons said.
Lonell Butler, chief building official for Yolo County, said that after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA wanted levees throughout the country to be re-certified.
However, in order to have the levees certified, owners had to pay millions of dollars – money that levee owners simply did not have.
As a result, essentially all of the levees that were identified on the current FEMA flood maps were decertified.
“This puts a whole dynamic on everything,” Butler said. “If you want to build here, you must build according to the Floodplain Management Program.”
All proposed new structures or substantial improvement of existing structures in a flood hazard area must be constructed at least one foot above the flood hazard elevation or flood-proofed in accordance with the new regulations to protect them from flooding.
Particular levees along the Sacramento River, the Yolo Bypass and Cache Creek have been identified as being in a high hazard area.
The flood insurance rate maps reflect the 1 percent annual chance flood, or the 100-year flood, which is a major flood that has a small percent chance of occurring each year, Simmons said.
Residents in the floodplain are encouraged to buy insurance before the new maps are implemented because they can use current insurance rates from the flood zone maps that are in effect today, Simmons said.
“In Yolo County the risk of flooding is real and there are options homeowners can take to lower that flood risk,” he said.
Simmons advised residents to understand their flood risk and how to prepare for a disaster. Residents can access FEMA’s website to help prepare for the risk of flooding within their community.
Meanwhile, Butler said the county has been performing outreach efforts for several years to help inform the community of the new flood maps, including town hall meetings.
“Part of our job as a good community is to inform our community,” he said.
CHINTAN DESAI can be reached at email@example.com.