From time to time, I have been asked about the levee and the flood insurance issue. There have been some recent developments regarding the San Mateo levee system upgrades that are worth disseminating.
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, 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 zoning. Multi-jurisdictional zoning has 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 been working together toward making the levee improvements in a timely manner so that the combined San Mateo/Foster City areas are not classified with a special hazard flood zone designation.
Foster City levies underwent approximately $2 million in improvements in the early 1990s to obtain FEMA certification of adequate flood protection and the levies received recertification in 2007. San Mateo has already made improvements to their levee system and is about 2/3 complete. An engineering report, dated July 6, 2009, prepared for the City of San Mateo stated in part, that the combined levee system of San Mateo and Foster City was mutually beneficial to both cities. It also cites that monies spent (in 2009 dollars) by Foster City since 1993 on the Foster City levee system would essentially equal the total amount expected to be spent by San Mateo to make its levee improvements.
One of the major steps in the process was to obtain funding for the remaining San Mateo levee project improvements by creating a special assessment district for the areas in San Mateo covered by the map. It was announced at the San Mateo City Council meeting on July 13, 2009 that over 75% of the voters in the special assessment district voted in favor of creating such a district. The special assessment district is comprised of parcels in San Mateo only and has no fiscal affect on the parcels or residents of Foster City.
The final flood zone map is expected to be issued in the spring of 2010 with the final map becoming effective six months after issuance.
San Mateo is currently working to obtain the required permits from regulatory agencies. Suffice to say, improvements are progressing in a positive direction which is good news for Foster City residents. However, with the current State budget proposals regarding furloughs, we should remain cautiously optimistic about the speed with which the permits may be issued.
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