Flood Insurance/FEMA and Misinformation
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Flood Insurance/FEMA and Misinformation
About two weeks ago, I read an internet commentary stating that city officials from Foster City are encouraging residents to purchase Flood Insurance. This is simply not true. When I brought this item to the City Manager’s attention to determine if there was some news about the FEMA/Levee issue that I missed, he responded that the posting was inaccurate. He also stated that “The only time that we as public officials would encourage FC residents to buy the insurance is if FEMA publishes the final map and the six month clock starts ticking as to when flood insurance would be required.”

I am deeply disappointed that inaccurate information finds its way into the public domain. With the enormous amounts of information available to us through the internet, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to believe that information when you have to validate every item for accuracy. I am all in favor of free speech but I am not a proponent of misinformation or shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

In my Council Corner from July of 2009, I talked about the FEMA maps and the flood insurance issue. The following is a recap of the material from that article plus the current status.

In 2008, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a preliminary flood map that shows expanded areas in San Mateo County, including areas south of Highway 92 and all of Foster City that would be reclassified as special flood hazard zones. Areas designated as special flood hazard zones are susceptible to a one percent chance of a flood occurring in any given year, also referred to as a “100-year flood.” In the past, FEMA determined flood zones by jurisdictional boundaries and that has since changed to multi-jurisdictional zones. Multi-jurisdictional zones have merit for as we all know; flood waters have little respect for these boundaries, obeying only the laws of gravity.

Properties located within the special flood hazard zone are required to purchase flood insurance if they are financed by federally backed mortgages. And prior to any redevelopment or property improvement, property owners are required to make major and significant improvements including raising the elevation of the property to above the flood level.

Since the announcement by FEMA, Foster City and San Mateo officials have worked together to make the levee improvements so that the combined San Mateo/Foster City areas are not classified with a flood zone designation.

Foster City levies underwent extensive improvements in the early 1990s to obtain FEMA certification of adequate flood protection and the levies were recertified in 2007. San Mateo has already made improvements to their levee system and is over 2/3 complete. In 2009, the residents of San Mateo who reside within the potential flooding area voted overwhelmingly to create a special assessment district to fund work on a levy project. This vote had no fiscal affect on the parcels or residents of Foster City.

San Mateo is currently obtaining the required permits from regulatory agencies to finish the project and it is my understanding that there is one state agency left from which approval must be obtained. Suffice to say, moving documentation and subsequent approvals through the governmental bureaucracy is an evolutionary process not a revolutionary one.

City staff has ongoing dialog with San Mateo regarding the progress and some of us on the City Council have had conversations with our counterparts in San Mateo and feel that all that can be done is being done to move this project along, which is still good news for Foster City residents.

The final flood zone map was expected to be issued in the spring of 2010 with the final map becoming effective six months after issuance. However, FEMA is still receiving information and will notify us of the new date when it is available. Therefore, Foster City property owners do not need to be in a rush to purchase flood insurance. Once a final flood zone map is issued, we will have six months from that date to obtain the required insurance.

Foster City has FEMA flood map information links on the home page of the Foster City website (www.fostercity.org). Our City staff realizes the importance of keeping our residents informed on this particular issue and updates the website information when there is significant information to disseminate.

I would appreciate your comments on this and other issues by emailing me at akiesel@fostercity.org.

Council Corner

October 06, 2010
Flood Insurance/FEMA and Misinformation
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