Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 8, 2009

FEMA: New flood-zone map coming

At-risk residents told to view map as insurance costs could rise

By Judy Wakefield

Changes to the town's flood-zone map are now underway and there's a chance homes that have not been considered in the flood plain could now be, resulting in increased insurance costs for those Andover homeowners.

In a story in last week's Townsman, Andover Conservation Director Bob Douglas warned residents about the change, saying homeowners near the old flood zone need to stay on top of the developing issue and suggesting that the federal government should work harder to alert people.

How do you know if your home is in a flood zone? Federal Emergency Management Agency Outreach Specialist Lauren Pawlik said it's up to residents to check the redesigned flood maps that soon will be on file in Town Offices, 36 Bartlet St. to find out.

There is no list of Andover addresses affected by the redesigned flood maps. Rather, FEMA is working with communities around the state, including Andover, to have these new maps available, she said.

Preliminary findings showed Andover's flood map has changed minimally over the years, so few homeowners in this town are expected to be added to the flood zone, according to FEMA officials.

The money for redesigned maps was approved by Congress about six years ago. Large, paper flood maps are no more, as flood maps for communities will be recreated in digital form, like a DVD, Pawlik said.

Preliminary redesigned flood maps were presented to community leaders last spring and the final version of Andover's redesigned flood map is expected around May 2010.

"Andover has had changes topographically since the last flood map was done, what, some 30 years ago...Topographic changes are usually the result of development in a community," said Kerry Bogcan, a senior engineer at FEMA who spoke in a conference call with Pawlik.

"We're letting people know about this so they can be aware. They need to go down to Town Offices (when the flood map is complete) and check it out," Pawlik said.

Financially, it will be a worthwhile trip for anyone whose house is added to a flood zone. Banks require homes in designated flood zones to have flood insurance, which is separate from homeowner's insurance. FEMA has a "grandfather" program for those homeowners who are newcomers to a flood zone. Pawlik said the flood insurance cost is about $388 a year for the life of the house through this program.

But if that same homeowner does not sign up for the FEMA flood insurance program, a bank will eventually write a letter and require flood insurance. Such insurance will cost the homeowner about $1,800 a year, Pawlik said.

"It's a huge difference," she said. "People need to be aware of these changes."

For more information, call the National Flood Insurance Propram Call-In Center at 1-800-427-4661; floodsmart.com also has information.