District Appeals Widening Of Downtown Flood Zone
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has given the District more time to appeal new federal flood maps that would place large sections of downtown Washington in a hazard zone and result in stricter insurance requirements and building codes.
After receiving a joint letter from several city agencies, FEMA this month said it would wait until March 26 before giving final approval to the new maps.
District officials have expressed deep concern over the maps, which show a proposed new flood zone several blocks wide and extending in a broad crescent from the Lincoln Memorial to Fort McNair, in Southwest Washington.
The zone would include Federal Triangle, much of the Mall to the base of Capitol Hill and a large section of Southwest Washington.
The changes would dramatically expand what is called the 100-year flood zone, where residential flood insurance often is required and more-stringent building codes would take effect.
The flood maps, which are being updated in a post-Hurricane Katrina analysis, haven't been updated since 1985, officials said. The hazard zone then was far less extensive.
City officials asked for the extra time, saying the map proposals took many people by surprise and carried large potential impacts.
"Who would ever suspect in the middle of the city . . . that you're suddenly in a 100-year flood plain?" Harriet Tregoning, director of the District's Office of Planning, said yesterday.
If the maps become official, residences in the zone with federally backed mortgages or with mortgages from federally backed banks would be required to have federal flood insurance, said Butch Kinerney, a spokesman for the FEMA directorate that administers the National Flood Insurance Program.
The annual cost of such insurance is about $600, he said.
Residences that are owned outright would not be required to have the insurance, he said, nor would commercial or government properties.
New buildings in the zone, however, would be required to be constructed above certain base flood levels, which vary throughout the area.