Surface Water Management Division
New Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) Now Available
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released newly updated and digitized flood insurance rate maps for Snohomish County on September 28, 2010. Until the adoption process is completed, the new maps are known as the Preliminary DFIRMs.
The original FIRMs dated back to 1984, when the county was first accepted into the National Flood Insurance Program.
The update process resulted in changes to the flood risk zones for some properties. The county is notifying all affected households of the changes by mail, and meetings are planned to provide an opportunity for discussion.
The DFIRMs will help local officials and residents identify currently known flood risks. When finalized, the maps will be used for flood insurance, land use planning and development decisions. They will be easier for users to access, and easier for FEMA to update.
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DFIRMs: Definition and Purpose
Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are the official maps on which FEMA has delineated special flood hazard areas and risk zones. They show the location of a property relative to special flood hazard areas, which is one of the factors determining flood insurance rates. More information on FIRMs is available at www.floodsmart.gov/.
FIRMs are used by:
- Citizens, insurance agents and real estate brokers to locate properties and buildings in flood insurance risk areas.
- Planning staff and building officials to administer floodplain management regulations and to mitigate flood damage.
- Lending institutions and federal agencies to locate properties and buildings in relation to mapped flood hazards, and to determine if flood insurance is required when making loans for the purchase or construction of a building or for providing grants following a disaster.
Until recently, these maps have been available in paper form at cities and counties, and online through FEMA. The maps are now digitized, with updated boundaries in some areas. They will be easier for users to access and navigate.
The new maps are a GIS (Geographical Information System) database of flood hazard information which will align with the county’s existing GIS databases for other property and development-related information.
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Changes to the maps include:
- Revised floodplain boundaries for all detailed (Zone AE) study areas in the County
- The incorporation of new detailed studies for the Skykomish River, Sultan River, Snoqualmie River, and portions of the Snohomish River and North Fork Skykomish River. Please note that new detailed studies often change the Base Flood Elevations (BFE) in areas because of updated hydrology, refined topography, and changed conditions in the watershed.
- The incorporation of new approximate studies for the South Fork Skykomish River and portions of the North Fork Skykomish River.
- Changes to areas that have not received a new detailed study, but for which new topographical data became available. In these cases the floodplain boundaries were re-delineated using the new topography.
The new DFIRMs include proposed changes in flood zones for the areas shown on the chart.
The revised maps are based on decades of rainfall and river gauge information, new hydraulic models, and recent topographic data.
The changes may affect mortgage loan requirements and flood insurance rates for those properties in areas proposed for adjustment. Please see the FEMA summary on how map changes can affect flood insurance.
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Flood Study Review for Communities
On October 19, 2010, FEMA and Snohomish County met with representatives of cities and diking districts to present the results of the study, discuss the information presented on the DFIRMs and Flood Insurance Study Report, and give the communities an initial opportunity to comment or ask questions. The county and FEMA also discussed plans for public outreach.
|Snohomish County partnered with FEMA to hold Open House style meetings Nov. 3, 2010 in Arlington and Nov. 9, 2010 in Monroe. Over 250 people attended the two meetings.
An additional meeting was held for the Sultan/Skykomish Valley area on January 18, 2011.
On March 17th, Snohomish County participated in a community meeting organized by Startup residents to discuss their concerns regarding the newly released FEMA flood risk changes for the Startup area and the protection they have received from local non-levee embankments.
(view agenda) (view presentation)
The meetings provided an opportunity for the public to see the changes in the new maps and ask questions.
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on the Maps
The County and FEMA welcomed citizen comments on the maps, which included things like noting an error (spelling, name of road or stream) or asking a question about why an area is mapped in a certain classification. All comments are due by the end of the appeal period. The comment period for the preliminary DFIRMs closed on May 12, 2011. FEMA is currently reviewing the comments that were submitted. Please see the updated Schedule for Adoption and Implementation.
A comment form was distributed at the public meetings and was available on the project Web page. Comments were accepted at the meetings, by letter through the mail (directed to Chris Nelson, PE, Public Works Surface Water Management, 3000 Rockefeller Avenue, M/S 607, Everett, 98201), or by e-mail to Chris Nelson or to FEMA.
Comments were due by the end of the appeal period, May 12, 2011. FEMA is currently reviewing the comments that were submitted.
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The 90-day appeal period began February 11, 2011 with the new Base Flood Elevations published in the Federal Register, and ended May 12, 2011.
Residents and property owners who believed that the proposed flood maps contained errors submitted additional scientific or technical information through their community officials, or directly, to FEMA, following the appeal process outlined in the handout, "How to File An Appeal."
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During the appeal period, Snohomish County received 16 comments from citizens in the unincorporated areas and one formal appeal from the Startup community, and FEMA received a number of comments from citizens in the unincorporated areas and a formal appeal from landowners in the Harvey Field area of Snohomish.
The County forwarded the comments received to FEMA and filed a formal appeal of the preliminary maps on May 11, 2011.The appeal letter requested that the newly mapped portions of the Startup area remain outside of the mapped floodplain based on the protection provided to that area by the Startup levee and railroad embankment.
The letter also requested review of areas that may be affected by FEMA’s recently revised policy on mapping areas landward of non-certified levees. Areas that may be affected by the new guidance include the area north of the railroad in the vicinity of Fern Bluff and the areas protected by levees on the Snohomish River.
Snohomish County appeal and supporting documents:
View the notice of FEMA’s revised policy on mapping non-certified levees
View the letter from FEMA Region X acknowledging the appeal filed by Snohomish County.