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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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What's Next for FEMA Map Mod ...

 

Every year, devastating floods impact the Nation by taking lives and damaging homes, businesses, public infrastructure, and other property. The National Weather Service has estimated $50 billion in flood damages occurred in the 1990s alone, and flood losses have continued to climb. The 2005 hurricane season was particularly costly. After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma made landfall that year, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) paid approximately $16.7 billion in flood claims.  

 

In administering the NFIP, FEMA develops Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to identify areas at risk of flooding. Initially, these maps were intended for use by flood insurance agents (to determine appropriate risk-based premium rates for NFIP coverage), floodplain managers, and others charged with implementing the NFIP. Over the years, however, FIRMs have become the primary source of flood hazard information for a much wider range of users, including builders and developers, Federal agencies, real estate agents, lending institutions, State and local emergency managers, land-use planners, and citizens attempting to make informed decisions based on the flood risk for a particular property.

 

The Evolution of FEMA Flood Maps
The National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, which established the NFIP, authorized the Federal Government to “identify and publish information with respect to all floodplain areas, including coastal areas located in the United States” and “establish or update flood-risk zone data in all such areas, and make estimates with respect to the rates of probable flood-caused loss for the various flood risk zones for each of these areas.”

 

In time, several types of flood maps and related products were developed to identify flood hazards in accordance with this directive. These products included detailed engineering studies of floodprone areas and maps depicting floodplain boundaries, flood elevations, zones of different levels of risk, and regulatory floodways.

 

Initially, paper map production methods were used to create the NFIP map inventory. With the development of computer-based geographic information system (GIS) technologies, however, paper map procedures have given way to digital production processes. As GIS technologies have advanced, the production of digital flood maps and related products also has advanced.


 

Map Modernization
Recognizing the connection between damage reduction and reliable flood maps, the President and the U.S. Congress funded Flood Map Modernization (Map Mod) for Fiscal Years 2003-2008. Map Mod provided the communities at greatest flood risk with digital flood maps and data that are more reliable, easier to use, and more readily available than ever before. 

 

The advantages of digital maps over paper maps include the ability to present information in a variety of ways to support more powerful analysis, electronic access and transmission, and lower long-term production and maintenance costs.

 

FEMA, in collaboration with stakeholders, developed a strategy for Map Mod to leverage program resources through partnerships with other Federal agencies and State and local governments involved with the NFIP and flood hazard identification.

 

When Map Mod is complete, it will have developed:

·         Digital flood hazard data and maps for 92 percent of the U.S. population;
·         New, updated, or validated flood hazard data for 30 percent of the mapped stream miles;
·         Credible floodplain boundaries for 75 percent of the mapped stream and coastal miles;
·         Strong, effective partnerships with State and local governments and other Federal agencies;
·         A premier flood data collection and dissemination platform.

 

NFIP Mapping: Fiscal Year 2009 and Beyond
FEMA is developing a vision for flood hazard mapping efforts that will start being implemented in Fiscal Year 2009. The Risk MAP (Mapping, Assessment, and Planning) strategy will enable FEMA to improve, maintain, and expand the flood hazard identification accomplished through Map Mod and leverage more benefits and community action from updated NFIP maps.

The Risk MAP vision seeks to:


·         Continue to focus on improving and maintaining flood hazard data and maps, which are the
     foundation of flood risk assessment and flood mitigation planning;
·         Deliver quality products and services to the right audience, using the right methods, at the
     right time;
·         Reduce loss of life and property through continuous improvement of mitigation plans; and
·         Increase local mitigation action.

 

The concept and progression of Risk MAP is best described as a lifecycle, with the purpose of constantly reducing losses to life and property. Flood mapping is used for risk assessments, which are incorporated into mitigation plans, where risk reduction measures are identified for future action. Future hazard identification requirements are developed, and the cycle starts anew. Key to the success of Risk MAP is better integration of components, effective communication with the various communities, leveraging of existing programs within the Risk Analysis Division of the FEMA

Mitigation Directorate, and increased process efficiencies.

 

For the past 5 years, the flood mapping program has focused on creating digital maps for areas of significant population and, in a limited manner, updating and improving flood depth accuracy (flood data updates) for areas of especially high risk. Hurricane Katrina and the summer 2008 flooding in the Midwest highlighted the fact that providing updated flood data for the Nation’s coasts and areas behind levees is critical. The Midwest flooding reemphasized the risks associated with levee-impacted inland areas throughout the country.

 

All U.S. coastal communities are subject to flooding, and many face huge risks. In Map Mod, FEMA improved methodologies for determining coastal flood hazards, recognizing the need for updated flood hazard data for these high-population, high-flood-risk areas. Also through Map Mod, modernized geospatial maps of coastal areas are being provided. However, the flood data for many of these maps are out of date. FEMA estimates that as much as 85 percent of the data may no longer reflect current conditions.

 

Although all areas were studied using proven coastal methodologies approved by FEMA and provide some degree of accuracy, these coastal analyses are, on average, more than 25 years old. U.S. coastlines have been changed by erosion, sea-level rise, and other environmental factors, and 25 years of additional records are now available. FEMA has a goal to use refined and improved coastal engineering methodologies to better reflect today’s conditions in these vulnerable communities.

 

The Nation also faces flood risk in communities partially protected by levee systems. To gain a better understanding of these risks, FEMA is leveraging work performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) National Levee Safety Program. Working hand in hand with USACE, FEMA is providing data collected through its mapping efforts for inclusion in the National Levee Database. In Risk MAP, flood maps for levee-impacted areas will be updated when levee owners provide the technical data needed to determine if the levees can be accredited. To issue updated FIRMs, FEMA will perform hydraulic modeling to analyze conditions with and without the effects of the levee systems. Where necessary, funding will be used to analyze and map interior drainage within the levee systems.

 

Other gaps in flood hazard data exist for areas where the landscape has been altered, where rainfall or storm surge data have been statistically different in the last decade from averages in previous decades, and where methods for estimating flood heights have advanced since the original studies were done. These significant needs will be addressed in Risk MAP through the modernized digital processes, program management infrastructure, and partnerships built during Map Mod. As with the efforts of all Federal programs, the level of FEMA’s efforts in Fiscal Year 2009 and beyond will be dependent on available resources.


 

The Digital Vision
The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004 established digital flood hazard data as “interchangeable and legally equivalent” to paper flood maps. FEMA has realized one of the key objectives of Map Mod by implementing the Policy for Use of Digital Flood Hazard Data; reengineering production to focus on digital products; and releasing the new National Flood Hazard Layer product, a suite of tools for using digital flood data, and users’ guides for the new tools and product.

 

A key goal of Map Mod has been to convert the NFIP paper map inventory to digital products and to replace the distribution of paper maps with digital delivery via the Internet. Beginning with flood maps distributed on or after October 1, 2009, FEMA will provide a single printed paper map to each mapped community and will end all other distribution of paper maps.  FEMA will continue to provide free digital map products and data to Federal, State, Tribal, and local NFIP stakeholders. Replacing paper map products with digital versions will save money and improve the usability of FEMA flood hazard data. For additional information on moving from paper to digital flood hazard information:  www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/fhm/dfm_ptd.shtm.

 

FEMA will continue to transform flood hazard data production processes. The focus will be on delivering digital flood hazard products cost-effectively and streamlining legacy processes that are no longer suitable in a digital environment. These process improvements will allow FEMA to deliver better products more cheaply and in ways that better meet the needs of NFIP stakeholders.

 

FEMA will also use the new capabilities provided by digital flood hazard products and tools to improve operations and integration across the Risk Analysis Division, Mitigation Directorate, and FEMA at large. This technology may allow FEMA to implement a geographic approach to mitigation, assess community risks more effectively and comprehensively, support better planning, evaluate the benefits of hazard mitigation projects, and support the emergency management mission of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.


 

What’s Next?
Map Mod goals will be achieved through flood mapping efforts supported by funding received for Fiscal Year 2008. The Multi‑Year Flood Hazard Identification Plan (MHIP), Version 3.0, describes the FEMA plan to complete this effort. Please visit the FEMA Map Modernization page [www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/fhm/mm_main.shtm] for more information about Map Mod, including the MHIP.

 

FEMA will continue to collaborate with stakeholders to sustain the quality of digital flood hazard data and maps provided through Map Mod. Please visit the Risk MAP page [www.fema.gov/plan/ffmm.shtm] to learn more about the FEMA mapping, assessment, and planning strategy. If you have questions about any of the activities discussed here, please contact a Map Specialist at: FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com



 
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