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Property owners can challenge updated flood maps in 2 counties

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Residents of Greenbrier and Kanawha Counties are encouraged to take a look at the preliminary flood maps updated by FEMA in the wake of the 2016 floods.

The maps, which denote the floodplains in those counties, have been adjusted according to data collected in the wake of the highwater event.

“Anytime we adjust the maps we use the latest data we have and in this case after the 2016 flood, the USGS went out into the field and collected high water marks so that we understood where the flooding took place,” said Maggie Dunn, Outreach Coordinator in the Mitigation Division of FEMA Region 3.

The adjustments could mean property which was previously not in the floodplain is now included. In some cases it may also reveal property in the areas for potential flooding is no longer in that zone. Property owners have the opportunity to challenge the preliminary maps if they disagree with the findings. However, Dunn said, you need more than just anecdotal evidence.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Hey it’s never flooded here before, I want to appeal the map.’ In order for it to be a valid appeal we need people to submit appropriate technical data to show why we should make a change in the preliminary map,” she said.

The maps out for comment in Greenbrier and Kanawha County are posted on-line at the West Virginia mapping tool.

According to Dunn the idea is to let people know they now have property in a flood zone. People are still able to use the property and are not required to make any changes to their homes or other structures.  However, there are different rules of compliance for structures in a floodplain and there are mitigation grants available for anyone wanting to upgrade the structure to those standards. For anybody wanting to build a new structure, compliance with the FEMA standards is required.

But Dunn said one thing that will change if you’re now in a floodplain is you may be required to get flood insurance. If you have your property financed with a federally backed loan it’s a requirement.  Any loan from a bank insured through FDIC is considered a federally backed loan.

“If a property becomes part of the special flood hazard area and they have a federally backed mortgage they would be required to buy flood insurance,” she said.

The comment period started last week and runs for three months if people want to challenge the map before it becomes final.

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