The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has advised Pinellas County that the multi-year project to re-examine Pinellas County coastal flood zones has been completed. The results have been incorporated into updated digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Insurance Study (FIS), which will become effective on August 24, 2021. These new maps are based on revised coastal flood modeling and may affect owners of properties susceptible to flooding from the Gulf, Tampa Bay, and inland areas near waterways connected to the Gulf or Bay.
Flood insurance will be required for properties that have a mortgage with a federally regulated or insured lender and are shown on the effective FIRM in a regulated flood zone or Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Flood insurance policies on properties affected by a flood zone and/or Base Flood Elevation (BFE) change will be adjusted to reflect rates associated with the changes as well. ‘Newly Mapped’ or ‘Grandfathering’ policy options may be available. Contact your insurance agent to discuss potential changes to your policy.
The new maps include a line called the Limit of Moderate Wave Action (LiMWA). The LiMWA indicates where waves can reach heights of over 1.5 feet. The area between the LiMWA and Zone VE is called the Coastal A Zone.
FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood hazard mapping is the basis for local and federal development regulations and flood insurance requirements. Not only is flooding one of the most common and costly disasters, the risk for flooding changes over time due to erosion, land use, new building and development, weather events and other factors. FEMA studies and restudies flood hazards in communities across the U.S. to keep flood hazard maps up to date. The process usually takes several years to complete and includes the following steps:
Each time FEMA provides a community with updated flood hazard data, the community must adopt or amend floodplain management regulations to incorporate the new data and meet any additional requirements that result from any changes in the data.
Overview of the Coastal Flood Risk Study Process
In 2012, FEMA initiated a coastal flood risk study for the West Florida Study Area that affects Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas counties.
FEMA released the Preliminary FIRMs and FIS reports, from this multi-year project for public review in July 2018. The County made the preliminary maps available to the public on two online map services (links above) and at County offices. The County in partnership with its municipalities and FEMA held four open house style public meetings around the county in September of 2018. FEMA initiated a 90-day appeal period on May 2, 2019. During this period, the County, in coordination with its municipalities, held three open house style public meetings to provide an opportunity for citizens to view the changes, speak with specialist, and comment on the preliminary data. Pinellas County performed an independent review of the Preliminary FIRMs and FIS reports and submitted findings and all public comments to FEMA at the end of July 2019. County citizens also had an opportunity to appeal or comment on the proposed flood hazard information shown on the Preliminary FIRM and/or FIS report by following the FEMA Criteria for Appeals of Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
FEMA resolved the preliminary study comments and appeals and performed their final quality review of the data and issued a Letter of Final Determination. On March 5th, 2021 the County received the letter from FEMA stating that “the determination of the Agency as to the flood hazard information for your community is considered final. FEMA will publish a notice of final flood hazard determinations in the Federal Register as soon as possible. The modified flood hazard determinations and revised map panels for your community will be effective as of August 24, 2021, and will revise the FIRM that was in effect prior to that date.” As a condition of continued eligibility in the NFIP, affected communities must adopt or show evidence of adoption of floodplain management regulations prior to the effective date.
Flood insurance will be required for properties that have a mortgage with a federally regulated or insured lender and are shown on the effective FIRM in a regulated flood zone or Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Flood insurance policies on properties affected by a flood zone and/or Base Flood Elevation (BFE) change will be adjusted to reflect rates associated with the changes as well. Contact your insurance agent to discuss potential changes to your policy. For flood insurance technical assistance, visit our Advocates page.