April 30, 2013
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently released updated Flood Insurance Rate Maps for parts of New York City that double the number of structures located in flood zones. The maps include the hardest hit parts of Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn during Hurricane Sandy.
The maps, released in January 2013, will not formally go into effect for the purposes of the National Flood Insurance Program for about two years, but the mayor’s office is already preparing an executive order to support owners of damaged homes in rebuilding to higher standards. For instance, a home in the expanded flood zone could be elevated on posts or pilings, which might have previously been prohibited under local codes.
Before Hurricane Sandy, FEMA was already in the process of updating the maps, some of which are based on 30-year-old data. FEMA plans to release new maps for the rest of New York City in February.
Flood risks on the new maps for the City will still only be determined based upon historical flood data; they do not calculate how flood risks will change in the future as sea levels rise. However, legislation passed in 2012—the Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act—gives FEMA authority to consider future sea level rise, among other things, as it updates future maps. For a more detailed discussion of the Reform Act see the Georgetown Climate Center’s report, Analysis of How the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 4348) May Affect State and Local Adaptation Efforts.