FEMA will hold flood mapping meeting Feb. 5 in Woodstock

By Jay Braman Jr.
By now most everyone knows that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is in the process of making new flood maps for the region.
In short, areas that previously were not in flood zones may be in those zones once the maps and finalized.
For property owners, that may mean being required to purchase flood insurance, which can be an expensive proposition.
On Wednesday, Feb. 5, FEMA officials will hold what appears to be the only session in Ulster County in which residents can discuss the new zones. The session, for all of Ulster County including the towns of Hardenburgh, Denning, and Shandaken, takes place at the Town of Woodstock Fire Hall at 242 Tinker Street in Woodstock.
“FEMA ... will be holding an open house in Ulster County to answer questions about the updated flood risk study, flood insurance rate maps, flood hazard mitigation planning, or flood insurance,” said FEMA’s Deputy Mitigation Director William McDonnell in a prepared statement. “We invite you to take advantage of the opportunity to view your community’s preliminary flood hazard date before it becomes effective.”
McDonnell added that there will not be any formal presentation on Wednesday, so people should just drop in at any time.
The maps are available for viewing at town halls around the county.
In addition to flood insurance requirements, the flood hazard status of any property also affects how much a flood insurance policy will cost.
“It is essential that you understand how the updated flood risk….relates to your property,” McDonnell said.
In related news, the United States Senate on Monday passed legislation that would delay for up to four years higher insurance rates set to phase in next year on homeowners facing whopping premium increases under these new flood maps. The legislation would also allow homeowners with subsidized insurance policies to pass them on to people who buy their homes.
The higher premiums are the result of recent changes to the federal flood insurance program designed to bring insurance rates more in line with the real risk of flooding.
But the new rates have scared people who could face big premium jumps as flood maps are updated. Homeowners are seeing estimates that in many cases would force premium hikes of 10 times or more as their homes are judged to be at a greater risk of flooding.
Plus, the loss of subsidies when homes are sold, has hurt the real estate market and threatened some home values.