ST. PETERSBURG — There hasn't been a lot of good weather-related news in St. Petersburg these days, not after storms deluged and overwhelmed its sewage system.
But the city is preparing to celebrate one bit of storm-related news: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing to lower the city's flood insurance costs.
"It's great news," said City Council member Darden Rice, who noted that: "51 percent of our residents live in a flood zone."
The official letter from the agency hasn't arrived yet, but the city is expecting confirmation any day now, said Rick Dunn, the city's building official and flood plain manager.
Under the national Community Rating System, or CRS, St. Petersburg's rating will drop from Class 6 to Class 5, an improvement that will save $1.7 million for the tens of thousands of residents who carry flood insurance.
A $150,000 policy should see about $120 in premium savings, Dunn said.
The CRS is a voluntary FEMA program that allows communities to receive discounts on flood insurance for upgrading their floodplain management.
Nationwide, 1,391 communities participate in the program. The program is rated 9 to 1 with 1 being the best rating. Each rung entitles residents to get another 5 percent discount on their flood insurance premiums.
For St. Petersburg, that means residents who have renewed or purchased a policy after Oct. 1 will see a 25 percent discount over residents who live in a community with a 9 rating, such as Riviera Beach.
There are only 121 Class 5 ratings across the United States, and 35 of them are in Florida.
Pinellas County attained a 5 rating this year, joining Hillsborough County. Clearwater and Tampa have 6 ratings. Largo and Pinellas Park each have a 7 rating.
St. Petersburg improved its ranking by tweaking its ordinance to require new homes in the floodplain to be built an extra 2 feet above previous requirements. Now, instead of the floor being 9 feet above sea level, Dunn said, it has to be 11 feet.
And the city has identified, through GIS mapping software, more open spaces in the city that can be used for stormwater storage.
Finally, the city has applied for a $1.2 million grant to help six homeowners in Shore Acres elevate their homes to better protect them from floodwaters.
The city has spent a lot of time recently, primarily in the council's Energy, Natural Resources and Sustainability Committee, working on long-term climate change and resiliency planning.
Rice, that committee's chairwoman, says that work is often complicated and technical, but lower flood insurance premiums are easily understood by homeowners.
"This is a very concrete, positive outcome that really shows what we're working on," she said.
Editor's note – This article has been changed to reflect the following correction: The city of St. Petersburg applied for a $1.2 million federal grant on behalf of six homeowners in Shore Acres to elevate their homes. An article in Friday's St. Pete Times section incorrectly stated the details of the flood-prevention initiative.