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Beach cities await reply to flood map complaints

Published Sep. 13, 2005

(ran Beach edition of Neighborhood Times)

Monday came and went. It was the deadline for Pinellas County cities to file complaints proving that proposed changes to federal maps of flood-prone areas are wrong.

Local officials only had time to provide a hastily prepared report complaining about some of the changes, although they asked for more time to study the new federal maps.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency did not extend the time for local cities to file appeals Monday. FEMA officials informed local cities only that they will get a response to the questions they raised recently about the maps before May 8.

FEMA released the proposed changes to its flood-risk maps in September. The maps show how high floodwaters could rise throughout Pinellas in a disastrous storm and where waves would be slamming against buildings on the coast.

FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program bases insurance rates on the maps and imposes more rules to make construction safer in the high-risk, flood-prone areas.

Especially in the beaches, floodwaters were predicted to rise higher than previously thought, and more areas were included in the highest risk areas for damage from tropical storms.

Beach officials complained the new risk maps will make construction more expensive, banks more reticent to lend money in high-risk areas and flood insurance premiums more likely to increase over the long run. They fear these results could stymie redevelopment.