FEMA's Flood Risk Review of Marin

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See Bill to Delay Flood Insurance Premium Hikes  

All because of:

Base Flood Elevation (BFE) - The base flood is the 1%-annual-chance flood, commonly called the "hundred year flood." Base Flood Elevation is the water-surface elevation of the base flood. The depth of the base flood can be calculated by subtracting the ground elevation from the BFE. The probability is 1% that rising water will reach BFE height in any year.

Building elevation in the:

  • A-zones is measured at the top of the lowest floor

  • V-zones is measured at the bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member of the foundation. Enclosures that are lower than the living space may be considered the "lowest floor" in some circumstances; machinery and equipment located below the living space may raise insurance rates

The lucky one's are those REZONED to blue which is "0.2 Pct" ( 500 year flood chance)
and actually is a zone X, which is no Flood Insurance required.

Levee Certification & Accreditation:

Levee Certification vs.Accreditation  
Meeting the Criteria for Accrediting Levee Systems on NFIP Flood Maps  
Levee System Construction & Restoration Projects
Complying with 44 CFR 65.10 Levee System Construction & Restoration Projects

("FEMA will only accredit those levee systems that meet, minimum design, operation, and maintenance standards consistent with the 1% annual chance flood" http://www.r9map.org/Documents/2nd_Rnd_FPM_Briefing1.pdf  )

"The levee in our yard is at 7.6’ NAVD29. 
We have been told it is around 3’, which makes it about 10.6’ NGVD88".

MINUTES:    Flood Risk Review Meeting, Marin
alifornia Coastal Analysis and Mapping Project -
n Francisco Bay Area Coastal Study


DATEAND TIME:    January 17, 2013,10:00am to 12:30pm  -- Kathy Schaefer initiated the meeting by welcoming the attendees and thanking them for staying with us for the second half of a two-part meeting. The morning meeting covered the Ross Valley and Mill Valley FEMA Study CCO Meeting. This meeting will cover the San Francisco Bay Area Coastal (BAC) Study, where Marin County is the first of the nine Bay Area counties to have a Flood Risk Review (FRR) meeting. Kathy noted that FEMA would return in approximately one year to conduct the CCO meeting for the BAC Study.

Kathy explained that the purpose of the FRR meeting was to review the technical process and review the draft work maps for the Marin County portion of the
 BAC Study
. The meeting also introduced the communities to an online tool for review and commenting on the work maps. Meeting attendees introduced themselves.


  •         Provide a brief overview of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) & Risk MAP

  • •      Provide an overview of the San Francisco Bay Area Coastal Study

  • •      Discuss coastal study process and methodology

  • •      Review and discuss the draft Work Maps and the online tool for review and comments

  • •      Discuss how the products can inform decisions to reduce flood risk

  • •      Learn how to communicate about flood risk using the products and datasets

  • •      Answer questions




Kathy Schaefer explained that FEMA actively promotes their Risk MAP (Mapping, Assessment and Planning) program so communities and community officials are more aware of their flood risk and how their maps are changing. FEMA encourages community officials to understand the flood risks shown on the maps and to begin assessing what their communities can do to reduce their flood risk.

The BAC Study was initiated in 2004 under the Map Modernization program. The study was originally divided into three areas:  

  1. 1.      North Bay, with coastal analysis led by Northwest Hydraulic Consultants (NHC);

  2. 2.     Central Bay and

  3. 3.     South Bay, with the coastal analysis led by BakerAECOM. BakerAECOM manages the overall work effort in close concert with Kathy.

The BAC Study is now progressing on a county-by-county schedule, with Marin County as the first county to have a FRR meeting.

In addition to the BAC Study, Marin County has two additional FEMA studies in progress:

  1. 1.      the Ross Valley/Mill Valley Study (addressed earlier in the meeting), and the

  2. 2.      Open Coast Study which is analyzing the coastal hazards along the entire California open coast.

As part of the Risk MAP program, Congress directed FEMA to analyze and map and 100 percent of the populated coast. Marin is the first countalong the coast to be studied – both by the BAC Study and by the Open Coast Study. The Open Coast Study will schedule a separate FRR meeting Marin when their coastal analysis and draft work maps are complete.

The timeline for the BAC Study is similar to the Ross Valley Study timeline that was discussed during the Community Coordination Officer (CCO meeting, just prior to the Flood Risk Review (FRR) meeting.

The BAC Study is currently in the floodplain mapping stage, which includes the development of work maps. The draft work maps will be available for comments.
After comments are received and reviewed, BakerAECOM will produce the Preliminary

Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for the affected coastal panels.
The BAC brochure pdf includes a graphic that highlights the affected panels. The brochure is also available on

The floodplain mapping for the Marin County portion of the BAC Study will be complete in March 2013 (approximate). Preliminary FIRMs will be issued in Sept 2013 and the Consultation Coordination Officer (CCO) or (Pre-FIRM) meeting will occur around October 2013 (approximate).

Kathy encouraged communities to review their maps before the maps become effective and the letter of final determination (LFD) is issued. Communities should approach FEMA before the LFD because FEMA has greater ability to address issues during this time. No changes can be made following the LFD without going through the formal Letter of Map Change process. The projected Effective date is March 2014. The updated schedule will be posted on www.r9coastal.org. 

Coastal Study Process

Kris May introduced herself as the study manager for BakerAECOM and introduced key members of the study team. The BAC brochure has contact information for all key study members printed on the back.

Kris discussed the technical study process.  The process starts with data acquisition, as the accuracy of the study is based on data that feeds into the analysis and mapping. The BAC Study utilizes the 2010 USGS and NOAA LIDAR data and the most up-to-date bathymetric data currently available.

Regional modeling is the second step of study process. The regional modeling incorporates: surge (the tidal water levels of  the bay); seas (local wind-generated waves); and swell (long period waves from the Pacific Ocean). These are all processes that contribute to coastal flooding in Marin County. The regional models were calibrated to 13 large storms in the San Francisco Bay area, and the simulations span a 31-year period.

The BAC Study uses a response-based approach because the processes act independently (extreme high tides are independent of large wind-driven waves) – unlike the east coast which experiences hurricanes where all forces act concurrently. San Francisco Bay is a complex area for completing coastal hazard analyses – there are complicated shoreline geometries, vertical walls, revetments, natural shorelines, marshes, etc. Transect layouts were established at a density required to capture coastal flooding – and the layout considers the complex shorelines, as well as inland land use, wave dynamics, and other factors.

The 1-dimensional coastal hazard analyses rely on model output from the regional models. Along each transect, the primary factors controlling flooding are: the 100-year stillwater elevation (e.g., extreme high tide) which typically controls the inland extent of inundation, and wave processes which can dictate the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), such as a VE Zone that has a wave height greater than 3 feet. The type of analysis (wave run-up vs. overland wave propagation) that is done along each transect is dictated by the shoreline type and topography. Wave run-up and overtopping analyses are done in areas with steep slopes and structures. The run-up methods follow FEMA’s Pacific Guidelines (link will be available on www.r9coastal.org).  Overland wave propagation is completed along transects with flatter topographies, such as over marshes and agricultural fields.

For overland wave propagation, the analysis considers two scenarios that contain the maximum envelope of wave hazards – one scenario pairs a 100-year stillwater elevation with an appropriate wave height so that the total water level equals the 100-year wave crest elevation. The second scenario pairs a 100-year wave height with an appropriate stillwater level so that the total water level also equals the 100-year wave crest elevation. The combination of these scenarios appropriately maps the inland extent of flooding and the wave hazards that can translate into SFHAs.

Stillwater elevation is a water level and does not include waves. Extreme value analysis (EVA) is used to determine the 100-year stillwater elevation, or the 1% annual chance flood elevation. Wind-driven waves are considered separately.

Several audience questions ensued at this time see Questions and Answers below.

Online Work Map Commenting Tool

The Online Work Map Commenting Tool (Tool) is new and is intended to help communities view and comment on the work maps in detail. Unlike traditional paper work maps, the communities can zoom in and view the maps at the individual property level if desired. The Tool will also help FEMA collect and synthesize comments within one cohesive database. Marin County is the first FRR meeting for the BAC Study, therefore Marin is the pilot and first community to use the Tool. All of the work maps will be posted online within a GIS environment. The community will have specific user logins and password to view the maps within a secure environment. FEMA wants each person who wants to comment to have their own login and password so that comments can be recorded accurately for the record.

All of the comments will be recorded and archived. The comments should pertain to the quality and accuracy of mapping. The work maps will be available online for 30 days for communities to review and comment. The work maps should be available to Marin County in February or March. FEMA will request user names and email addresses for all users that wish to review and comment on the work maps. The comments will be taken into consideration as the mapping enters production.

Online Work Map Review Demonstration

James Johnston, GIS Manager, BakerAECOM provided a demonstration of the tool with Kathy Schaefer. The “pin icon” in the tool will allow users to comment anywhere and the comments will be tagged to the user, archived, and saved. Meeting participants were invited to walk-through the work maps (test out) the tool following the presentation.

James provided a brief introduction to the “widgets” to show how comments get cataloged. The version presented may change: labels may be adjusted, datasets may change, and features improved. It was also noted that riverine tie-ins will be included by the time the data/tool becomes available to the communities to make comments. The tool presentation continued from Novato south along the shoreline to the Golden Gate Bridge.

A participant noted that Novato has the only accredited levees in Marin County.  It was shown on the tool that the City of Novato does not have a lot of major changes to their mapping.  It was noted that Costco currently has a LOMR but may be mapped back into the floodzone under the revised BAC Study mapping.

Several audience questions ensued at this time see Questions and Answers below.

Outreach and Communication

Lisa Messano, Outreach Coordinator, BakerAECOM, discussed outreach relative to the BAC Study.

Outreach is an essential component of the Risk MAP program. It’s important for the community to come together to convey a consistent message to their communities about flood risk and why the flood risks may be changing. Research shows that people are more willing to prepare and/or mitigate flood risks if they feel it was “their idea,” therefore it is important that people understand their flood risk, what they are being asked to do, and how they should respond. People will come together and take action to reduce flood risks.

FEMA has conducted nationwide surveys on flood risk awareness. The surveys show that homeowners want their city officials to deliver the flood risk message. Public Works Departments and floodplain administrators need to work with their City Council and mayors to get the right messages out. Tools and guidance are available to help achieve consistent messaging. Examples that can help local officials share flood risk information include: adding information to community websites, publications for building owners on reducing risk, letters or brochures, and media materials such as press releases.

Two-way communication throughout the Risk MAP study process is important – in order to reach Risk MAP goals, enhanced community engagement is required. The FRR meeting is part of Risk MAP’s new meetings guidance.  Lisa noted that the study is in the Flood Risk Review meeting stage where the purpose is to introduce the technical data and analysis. The Preliminary FIRM/Open House meeting will be held in October 2013 (approximately) after the Preliminary FIRMs are released. Typically, the Preliminary FIRM meeting is held in the morning with community officials, and the Open House meeting is held in the evening for residents. The Open House meeting will include several stations that residents can visit to get information.

Lisa suggested that Message maps can help with consistent messaging when city council, news agencies, residents, or mayors come to you for information. A message map would include several “key messages” that respond to specific questions or concerns, along with additional supporting information. These can serve as a quick reference or pocket guide so that everyone conveys a consistent message.

FEMA has many tools and resources to help. The FEMA online library, www.fema.gov/about-fema- library has information on mapping, Letter of Map Change (LOMC) guidance documents, flood insurance, floodplain management. 1-877-FEMA-Map can also provide you with guidance and documents. Coastal Beat (quarterly E-newsletter) also provides study information and updates, and information on future webinar or meeting information. Templates are also available on www.r9coastal.org such as the Community Outreach Plan Template (BakerAECOM/FEMA will be available to help communities tailor the template to meet the needs of your community as you know your community best), Press Release, Open House materials.

Hazard Mitigation Planning

Hazard Mitigations Plans are a foundation for a long-term strategy to reduce disaster losses increase risk- based decision making. Hazard Mitigation Planning is part of the Risk MAP process. The BAC Study identifies the risks; the next steps are about assessing risk and vulnerability using the coastal flood hazard data the BAC Study will provide, communicating risks, and mitigating risks.

Currently, some Marin communities have expired Hazard Mitigation Plans, and two do not have a plan prepared. Juliette Hayes, FEMA Region IX (not present) is interested in working with the hazard mitigation coordinators to integrate Hazard Mitigation Planning within the planning process. FEMA would like the names of these staff members so that Juliette can begin these conversations.

Michael Hornick noted: communities have a financial burden defined in the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. He expressed that FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plans are coordinated through CalEMA. Communities with approved Hazard Mitigation Plans will be more successful in recovering from a disaster. Long term disaster planning grants (such as road improvement) will not be available to communities that do not have a Hazard Mitigation Plan approved. Resilience is tied to repair costs. Be aware – meet with your emergency services officer. Updating Hazard Mitigation Plans every five years improves your opportunities and success with post-disaster planning. FEMA, CalEMA and ABAG all have resources available to help.

Next Steps:

FEMA: finalize the analyses and mapping and post to www.r9coastal.org. After reviewing comments on the work maps, Preliminary FIRMs will be produced and FEMA will hold a Preliminary FIRM/Open House meeting.

Community Officials: review and comment on the work maps; tailor the outreach plan to determine how communities will communicate flood risk to their residents (be sure to include information to outreach to homeowners on attached and detached docks); begin communicating about flood risk to residents; set a separate insurance meeting (most likely a few months down the road); and initiate Hazard Mitigation Planning.


  Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act March 21, 2014
  This law repeals and modifies certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was enacted in 2012, and makes additional program changes to other aspects of the program not covered by that Act. Many provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act remain and are still being implemented.

Nov 21 2013 Prospects Dim for Bills to Delay Flood Insurance Rate Hikes
Efforts to delay implementation of changes in the federal flood insurance program have run into roadblocks on both sides of Capitol Hill. The leaders of the House Financial Services Committee say they are standing behind last year’s bipartisan legislation.
About 1.1 million homeowners — or 1 in 5 in the program — have received taxpayer-subsidized rates and the government has financed about 60 percent of losses on their properties. Most people can retain the subsidies but can’t pass them along to people buying their home, a restriction that’s especially burdensome to lower-income older homeowners seeking to sell their houses.
The changes also promise to make it unaffordable for people in chronic flood zones to keep their homes, and they have put a damper on home sales in areas where benefits extended to current homeowners can’t be passed along to prospective buyers.

Vote on DELAY to flood insurance hike bill could come by Thanksgiving

 Nationwide Movement against FEMA.          CBS News "premiums up 1,000%"

FEMA chief says he can't stop flood insurance rate increases 09/18/13

NYT: The New Flood Insurance Disaster    West Virginia

EVERYBODY will eventually have their
Flood Insurance premium INCREASE
( tho some can keep their subsidy)

in the case of Santa Venetia it is going up to around $10,500!
Santa Venetia is split between Maps 4 and 3  You will see we are ZONE AE(EL10)
which means a BFE 10 feet (
and we used to be 9 feet)

From a resident of Santa Venetia who lives between Vendola and Adrian, almost at Meadow. So if it (excluding subsidy) applies to him it will apply to almost all
un-raised properties in Santa Venetia:-

Since we are currently at elevation of 9.23’ –  almost a foot too low, as the law currently stands, our insurance costs, starting in 2015, will be about $10,700 a year!

If we raised the house to > 10’, then it would drop to about $1,600 per year (about what it is now).  (But of course, just 5 years ago we raised the house 3 inches,  leveling it,  to be > 9’ – which was the old minimum level.  Not that it did us any good.  The ground around the house is at 8', ie – the foundation is still under the old BFE.  Only the ground floor and all the mechanics (furnace, garage, etc) is at 9’ 3”.  So, as they said – it lowered my rates, but did not remove the requirement. From the NGVD88, 8 feet below my house is about the height of low tide)

The woman representing the insurance last night indicated that this is an unexpected consequence of how the law was written, and she expects it to be blown up by the public, and in Congress, and get fixed.  But over $10k is how the law currently reads. Its apparently up to Congress to fix the extreme increases caused by the law change. 

From: FEMA Marin http://www.r9map.org/Pages/ProjectDetailsPage.aspx?choloco=21&choProj=231

FEMA Special Flood Hazard Areas - Video Flyover of Google Earth Overlay Santa Venetia, Marin County  or just Flyover yourself (notice better overlay settings than FEMA's) left click on overlay for a popup showing the zone in that location.

- salmon color
( SFHA= Special Flood Hazard Areas )

http://www.fema.gov/final-levee-analysis-and-mapping-approach has a link to
"National Levee Database" "Find Levees near me" "Maps" and a FEMA tab with
FEMA Floodplains & Zones checkboxes—plus NLD checkboxes for levees --good luck with that.

The Zones: blue( zone change)  and green( Special Flood Hazard Area DECREASE) have become a ZONE called "0.2Pct" which I assume is a "500 YEAR" zone ( not expected to flood more than every 500 years.) 

But the yellow( Special Flood Hazard Area INCREASE) shows zone of AE which means an insurance rate increase is coming.

(The Google Earth OVERLAY TITLE for ZONES is instead called "  " and  a ZONE called "0.2Pct" does not exist on the list of FIRM Zones  ( see below)

number of policies  "subsidized" by county


to: Ms. Schaefer at (510) 627-7129, e-mail at Kathleen.Schaefer@fema.dhs.gov Raymond Lenaburg, Risk Analysis Branch Chief, at (510) 627-7181, 
 email at  Raymond.Lenaburg@fema.dhs.gov

Looking at Meeting Minutes From link: "San Francisco Bay Area Coastal " on
takes us to

----     Where on this page can we find the CCAMP / BAC study and Flood Insurance Study?:
(the Minutes says: "This site was established to provide info about the CCAMP / BAC  study")
----      the link  "San Francisco Bay Area Coastal " returns us to  the same page.

On the MAP OVERLAY for Google Earth

  • left click on overlay (ZONE CHANGE & SFHA INCREASE and DECREASE)  for a popup telling us the new zone
  • I know that the Santa Venetia levee is ignored and treated as just a berm, but still, -- parts of it are missing from this overlay.
  • What exactly will affect our FEMA Insurance Premiums and by how much?
  • How does it make sense for only SOME parts of the same levee to be DECREASED ?
  • Where is the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) report that accompanies the RATE map?

The California Coastal Analysis and
Mapping Project (CCAMP) /  Bay Area Coastal (BAC) Study

involves new coastal flood hazard mapping and base-flood elevation BFE determinations

MEETINGS 6:30 -8:30

  • Tuesday, Nov. 19, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Bacich School community room, 699 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Kentfield
  • Wednesday, Nov. 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Sausalito City Council Chambers, 420 Litho St., Sausalito

Questions about the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 http://www.fema.gov/flood-insurance-reform-act-2012


1.    What is the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012?  

Answer: The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12) is a law passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2012 that extends the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years, while requiring significant program reform. The law requires changes to all major components of the program, including flood insurance, flood hazard mapping, grants, and the management of floodplains. Many of the changes are designed to make the NFIP more financially stable, and ensure that flood insurance rates more accurately reflect the real risk of flooding. The changes will be phased in over time, beginning this year. 

2.    Why was the Biggert-Waters Reform Act of 2012 passed? 

Answer: Flooding has been, and continues to be, a serious risk in the United States—so serious that most insurance companies have specifically excluded flood damage from homeowners insurance. To address the need, in 1968 the U.S. Congress established the NFIP as a Federal program. It enabled property owners in participating communities to purchase flood insurance if the community adopted floodplain management ordinances and minimum standards for new construction. However, owners of existing homes and businesses did not have to rebuild to the higher standards, and many received subsidized rates that did not reflect their true risk. 

Over the years, the costs and consequences of flooding have continued to increase. For the NFIP to remain sustainable, its premium structure must reflect the true risks and costs of flooding. This is a primary driver for many of the changes required under the law

Insurance Cost/Rate Questions 

3.    What changes to insurance operations are anticipated? 

Answer: Many of the proposed changes are designed to increase the fiscal soundness of the NFIP.  For example, beginning this year there will be changes addressing rate subsidies and a new Reserve Fund charge will start being assessed. There are also provisions to adjust premium rates to more accurately reflect flood risk. 

Other provisions of the law address coverage modifications and claims handling. Studies will be conducted to address issues of affordability, privatization, and reinsurance, among other topics. 

4.    Will all policyholders see changes in insurance rates as a result of BW-12

More than 80 percent of policyholders (representing approximately 4.48 million of the 5.6 million policies in force) do not pay subsidized rates. 

About 20 percent of all NFIP policies pay subsidized rates. Only a portion of those policies that are currently paying subsidized premiums will see larger premium increases of 25% annually starting this year, until their premiums are full-risk premiums. 

Five percent of policyholders – those with subsidized policies for:

·         non-primary residences,

·         businesses, and

·         severe repetitive loss properties

- will see the 25% annual increases immediately. .

Subsidies are already being phased out for non-primary residences. Starting this fall, subsidies will be phased out for businesses; properties of one to four residences that have experienced severe repetitive loss; and properties that have incurred flood-related damages where claims payments exceed the fair market value of the property. Premiums for these properties will increase by 25% per year until they reach the full risk rate. 

Subsidies will no longer be offered for policies covering

·         newly purchased properties,

·         lapsed policies, or

·         new policies covering properties for the first time.


The 80% of all NFIP policies that already pay full-risk premiums will not see these large premium increases.

Most policyholders will see a new charge on their premiums to cover the Reserve Fund assessment that is mandated by BW-12.  Initially, there will be a 5% assessment to all policies except Preferred Risk Policies (PRPs). The Reserve Fund will increase over time and will also be assessed on PRPs at some undetermined future date. 

Additional changes to premium rates will occur upon remapping, the provision calling for these premium rate changes will not be implemented until the latter half of 2014. 

5.    In general, which properties will be most affected by changes in rates? 

Answer: Rate changes will have the greatest effect on properties located within a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) that were constructed before a community adopted its first Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) and have not been elevated.

For many communities the initial FIRM would have been adopted in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Your local insurance agent will be able to provide you the initial FIRM date for your community.

 Many of these pre-FIRM properties have been receiving subsidized rates.  

Subsidies are not being phased out for existing policies covering primary residences. However, the subsidy provided to primary residences could still be lost under conditions that apply to all subsidized policies.  Subsidies will be immediately phased out for all new and lapsed policies and upon sale of the property.

There may also be premium changes for policyholders after their community is remapped.  But that provision of the Act is still under review and will be implemented in the future. 

6.    What happens if a policy with subsidized rates is allowed to lapse or the property is sold?

 Answer: Starting this fall, for all currently subsidized policies, there will be an immediate increase to the full risk rates for all new and lapsed policies and upon the sale/purchase of a property. Full risk rates will be charged to the next owner of the policy

7.    What does “full risk rate” actually mean? 

Answer: Simply put, it means that the premium reflects both the risk assumed by the program (that is, the expected average claims payment) and all administrative expenses. In the case of flood insurance, this means the premium takes into account the full range of possible flood losses, including the rare but catastrophic floods as well.


 8.    How can someone find out what a property’s full risk rate will be?


Answer: Of the many factors that determine the full risk rate of a structure, the single most important is the elevation of the structure in relation to the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).

A community’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) indicates the area of the community that has a 1% or greater annual chance of flooding. That area is called the Special Flood Hazard Area, or high-risk zone. Put another way, the BFE is the elevation where there is a 1% or greater annual chance of flooding.

For a property in the high-risk zone, you need to know the elevation of the structure in relation to the BFE. Generally, the higher the elevation above the BFE, the lower the flood risk. The information is shown on an Elevation Certificate, which is a form completed and signed by a licensed engineer or surveyor. So to determine the premium for a property in a

high-risk zone, you first need an elevation certificate. Then, an insurance agent can calculate the premium based on the amount of coverage desired.


9.    What percentage of policies nationwide, and in high risk zones, actually receives these subsidized rates?


Answer: More than 80 percent of policyholders (representing approximately 4.48 million of the

5.6 million policies in force) do not pay subsidized rates.  About 20 percent of all NFIP policies pay subsidized rates. However, only 5 percent of policyholders – those subsidized policies covering non-primary residences, businesses, and severe repetitive loss properties - will see immediate increases to their premiums.


10.  When will NFIP Grandfathering be eliminated?


Answer: Currently, the NFIP Grandfather procedure provides eligible property owners the option of using risk data from previous Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) if a policyholder  maintained continuous coverage through a period of a FIRM revision or if a building was constructed “in compliance” with the requirements for the zone and BFE reflected on a previous FIRM.

A provision of BW-12, however, requires FEMA to use revised flood risk data (zone and BFE) after a map revision. The legislation provides a 5-year mechanism to phase-in the new rates. This provision impacts the NFIP Grandfather procedure and will be implemented in the latter half of 2014. Many of the precise details of this implementation are still under development.


11.  Is there any option for people who are now in a flood zone, did not have substantial damage, but now the BFE is 10 feet higher than previously and face dramatic rate increases?


Answer: FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) programs provide funds for projects that reduce the risk to individuals and property from natural hazards. These programs enable mitigation measures to be implemented before, during, and after disaster recovery.  

Local jurisdictions develop projects that reduce property damage from future disasters and submit grant applications to the State. The States submit applications to FEMA based on State criteria and available funding.


The HMA programs include: 

•      Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) - provides grants to implement long-term hazard mitigation measures after a major disaster declaration. The purpose of HMGP is to reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during recovery from a disaster.


•      Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) - program provides funds on an annual basis so that measures can be taken to reduce or eliminate risk of flood damage to buildings insured under the NFIP.


•      Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program (PDM) - provides nationally competitive grants for hazard mitigation plans and projects before a disaster event. States can receive PDM funds regardless of whether or not there has been a disaster declared in that state.

FEMA encourages property and business owners interested in implementing mitigation activities to contact their local community planning, emergency management, or State Hazard Mitigation Officer for more information.  

Individuals and businesses may not apply directly to the State or FEMA, but eligible local governments may apply on behalf of a private entity.  

Your community will be working with the State to develop applications for HMA funding and implement the approved mitigation projects. Information about the HMA programs can be found at  


FIRM Zones

FIRMs show different floodplains with different zone designations. These are primarily for insurance rating purposes, but the zone differentiation can be very helpful for other floodplain management purposes. The more common zones are listed in Figure 3-10.


Zone A

The 100-year or base floodplain. There are six types of A Zones:

A        The base floodplain mapped by approximate methods, i.e., BFEs are not determined. This is often called an unnumbered A Zone or an approximate A Zone.

A1-30   These are known as numbered A Zones (e.g., A7 or A14). This is the base floodplain where the FIRM shows a BFE (old format).

AE      The base floodplain where base flood elevations are provided. AE Zones are now used on new format FIRMs instead of A1-A30 Zones. (Santa Venetia)

AO     The base floodplain with sheet flow, ponding, or shallow flooding.  
          Base flood depths (feet above ground) are provided.

AH       Shallow flooding base floodplain. BFEs are provided.

A99      Area to be protected from base flood by levees or Federal Flood Protection Systems under construction. BFEs are not determined.

AR       The base floodplain that results from the decertification of a previously accredited flood protection system that is in the process of being restored to provide a 100-year or greater level of flood protection.


Zone V and VE

V          The coastal area subject to a velocity hazard (wave action) where BFEs are not determined on the FIRM.

VE        The coastal area subject to a velocity hazard (wave action) where BFEs are provided on the FIRM.


Zone B and Zone X (shaded)

Area of moderate flood hazard, usually the area between the limits of the 100- year and 500-year floods. B Zones are also used to designate base floodplains of lesser hazards, such as areas protected by levees from the 100-year flood, or shallow flooding areas with average depths of less than one foot or drainage areas less than 1 square mile.


Zone C and Zone X (unshaded)

Area of minimal flood hazard, usually depicted on FIRMs as above the 500- year flood level. Zone C may have ponding and local drainage problems that don’t warrant a detailed study or designation as base floodplain. Zone X is the area determined to be outside the 500-year flood and protected by levee from 100-year flood.

  Zone D

Area of undetermined but possible flood hazards.

Figure 3-10: Flood Insurance Rate Map Zones  http://www.fema.gov/pdf/floodplain/is_9_complete.pdf  Page 107

Note that the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) includes only A and V Zones.


1.      [Roger Leventhal] Will the coastal analysis data, the transect-based analysis, could be made available for review.

Answer: FEMA is open to having the transect data available for review. Kathy will work with Kris to make the data available to those that request it.

2.      Is the Tool open for the General Public?

Answer: No. Floodplain managers, community officials, designated stakeholders.

3.      What kind of comments are FEMA looking for (within the online tool)?

Answer: The flood zone boundaries are a result of interpolation based on topography (the 2010 LIDAR data collected by the USGS and NOAA). Communities should look at people who are on the edge of the flood zone to determine if the communities knowledge of the topography shows that the boundaries are correct or if the flood zone boundary should be adjusted. The community should look closely and be aware of the results to see if there are changes from the previous effective maps.

4.      What can I do about regulating today?

Answer: You should use the information from today as “best available data.” Risk MAP Products were briefly introduced, although no Risk MAP products are currently planned for the SF Bay Area Coastal Study. Edie Lohmann expressed that docks and decks attached to buildings are something to look at. For docks and decks that are structurally attached to the building, the grade adjacent to the footer of the deck defines the lowest adjacent grade. This can place a building within the floodzone, even if the building itself is not mapped within the floodzone (e.g., for structures with decks that extend into lagoons or the Bay). Kathy presented a graphical depiction of this situation, noting that it can be challenging to determine lowest adjacent grade. Local officials need to look at the development. Bel Marin Keys development has several examples of this.  How decks are structurally joined or not joined to the house is the critical key issue.

Audience comment: Zoning regulations define the structure independence

Michael Hornick added it’s best to have a vertical and horizontal view. Critical piece is joined or not joined.

5.      [Berenice Davidson] When the community is commenting on the map, if we have knowledge about certain houses do we just comment, or what information do we need to provide to FEMA to change the flood line?


Answer:  Kathy Schaefer stated FEMA is looking at the overall boundary. FEMA will give communities the opportunity to suggest if moving the boundary line is necessary, and is not looking for back-up data at this time. Kathy stated that FEMA is not going to adjust the flood line for every house – we are looking for comments that support adjustments to certain structures. Kris noted that we do not arbitrarily draw lines between transects, we use the coastal analysis, the best available topographic data, and Best Engineering Judgment. Kathy Schaefer expressed that we are looking for a meeting of science with technical data and “art It will also help determine if some houses need to be moved into the flood zone. Kathy Schaefer commented again, and stated that FEMA wants to know what should be changed and to understand who will be in the floodplain and the type of comments that will be received.


Kris May stated that the floodplain boundaries have not changed significantly, but in many areas the BFEs have increased. The previous analysis (for the existing effective maps) is from the 1980’s. The current analysis takes into account sea level rise that has occurred over the past few decades, and the coastal analysis uses more sophisticated modeling tools that allow us to better understand the wave dynamics along the shoreline.

Audience comment: There will be issues. Put all areas in AE: remove islands and include homes.

6.      How much higher is the tide?

Answer: Although there is data available to complete an analysis of the change in tidal statistics that has occurred over the past 30 years, this analysis is not part of this study.  Data can be made available for the communities to do that analysis.

7.      How accurate is the 2010 LIDAR data provided by NOAA?

Answer: It exceeds FEMA’s standards for mapping: Vertical accuracy of 10 cm and 1-meter horizontal resolution. The data are all available online.

8.      When will work maps be available?

Answer: Floodplain mapping efforts should be completed in April. The online work map tool should be available in February or March.  Once it’s complete we will reach out to the communities to see who should have access to the tool and get login information. Silverlight plug-in needs to be installed on Internet Explorer to run the comment tool.


9.      Does LiMWA show up in Marin? (follow link for video of areas rated FEMA Insurance RATE DISCOUNTS)

There are two spots where LiMWA is mapped but not in areas where structures exist. It could have an impact on the open coast.


10a. Are the numbers always reported in whole numbers? (Base Flood Elevation )

Answer: The BFEs are rounded to the nearest whole number (e.g., numbers < 0.49 are rounded down, numbers > 0.5 are rounded up).  The Flood Insurance Study (FIS) report that accompanies the map will have the elevation results to 1/10th of a foot accuracy. Mapping is conducted to the decimal.

Audience comments: 9.6 results in more people in if mapped at 10. Need to prove you are out.

The BFE’s are always rounded to a whole number. Flood determination companies never go to the FIS report, but it has all of the details. Flood determination companies will be looking at the whole number on the map (i.e., BFE of 10 ft). It was noted that the flood way is retained the entire way from the riverine study through the coastal study.

10.  Is there a certification process for levees?

Answer: Yes, the levee certification process has not changed.

11.  Will the riverine studies mesh with the coastal study?

Answer: Yes. The floodplain mapping will map the highest hazard in areas that are exposed to both riverine and coastal flood hazards.


12.  Is VE zone of 3 ft, statutory?

Answer: A VE zone is defined as an area that has a wave height greater than 3 ft. This is part of the current FEMA guidelines.

13.  Why are boundaries staying the same and the BFE are higher?

Answer: Based on the topography of the area, a foot of difference in the BFE is not significant on the map when yore looking at this scale. You don’t see a boundary change because the shoreline topography is typically steep. Kathy comment: the number of communities in the floodplain inspires us to come together and respond.


14.  Why are the VE Zone designation not clear [referring to online comment tool]?

Answer: The labels for the VE Zones are not displaying on the screen right now, but the shoreline of Marin does have VE Zones in many areas, and this is consistent with the current effective maps. We will make sure the VE Zone labels display properly when the floodplain maps are released for review.

15.  Which grants would require communities have a Hazard Mitigation Plan?

Answer: It is helpful for a Community Rating System (CRS) community. The Hazard Mitigation Plan is now considered a multi-hazard document and looks at all hazards in a community. Hazard Mitigation Plans help position communities to get grant funding. ( Novato has a CRS program that "gives it more points" )


16.  If you took this model could you re-run it so that it includes climate change?

Answer: In San Francisco Bay there has been a lot of analysis to see if there is a signal with sea level rise (if sea level rise is amplified along with the tides), there is a small signal but it is generally insignificant. A few studies are using the FEMA study for sea level rise analysis. SF Bay and the Open Pacific Coast study are two of the most comprehensive studies and data sets in California. As data has been QA/Qd through the FEMA process, FEMA has been allowing others to leverage the data.

17.  [Roger Leventhal] Will the Online Tool include existing Floodplain (DFIRM data)?

Answer: Not currently but we will look into adding it to the database prior to the comment period.


Kathy is the FEMA engineer that manages the overall CCAMP San Francisco Bay Area Coastal Study.
athy was joined by Michael Hornick, Natural Hazards Program Specialist and Edie Lohmann, Insurance Liaison from FEMA Region IX.

The “Answers to Questions about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)” is available and free to download online at the FEMA Library. You can also call 1-877-FEMA-MAP to request as many copies as you need.  It is a good tool to give to elected officials and to have as a resource.

Lisa Messano, BakerAECOM requested the names of community planners so Juliette Hayes, FEMA Region IX can work with them to update or create a Hazard Mitigation Plan. FEMA wants communities to integrate Hazard Mitigation Planning into building requirements so that the two will be thought about in tandem.



LOCATION:              Town of Belvedere Council Chambers  450 San Rafael Avenue, Belvedere

ATTENDEES:            Kathy Schaefer, FEMA Region IX Michael Hornick, FEMA Region IX

 BakerAECOM Hamid Shamsapour, BakerAECOM Kathy Schaefer,

Jonathon Goldma