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Officials begin process to updating flood insurance maps

BERLIN—Town officials are taking
preliminary steps to ensure that street names and landmarks are properly
identified when a proposed update for Berlin’s flood insurance rate maps are
released later this year through a new digital format.

A sneak peek of how the actual
proposed map, delineating areas that show areas where there is at least a
1-percent-annual-chance of flooding, have been posted at Town Hall and in the
Berlin Planning Office.

In prior years the maps were
compiled from a paper mapping process, according to an October, 2013 statement
from the Maryland Department of the Environment.  The proposed maps are being converted into a digital flood
insurance mapping system, in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, MDE said.

Deputy Administrator Mary Bohlen
cautioned during a Nov. 1 interview that residents should not confuse the
preliminary floodplain map with the proposed map.

Advance access to the preliminary
map will allow officials and residents to correct misidentified street names
and landmarks, she said. Once the official proposal is received then any
changes to the actual proposed floodplain delineations will be addressed,
according to Bohlen.

 The maps are important because they determine the likelihood
for flood damage during storms within estimated degrees of severity and those
estimates determine whether the property owners would be required to purchase
flood insurance.

Standard homeowners insurance
does not cover flood damage and property owners who purchased their homes
through a federally regulated or insured lender are required to purchase flood
insurance if their homes are in designated high-risk flood areas, according to
an information Web site produced by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Flood insurance is recommended, but optional, for homeowners not in high-risk
areas, according to FEMA.

The proposed Digital Flood
Insurance Rate Map updates have the potential to change the designation—in
either direction—from a low-risk, moderate-risk or high-risk geographic area. The
target effective date for the DFIRM that will update potential flood conditions
in Worcester County is January, 2015, according to MDE.

MDE officials also noted that the
National Flood Insurance Program has instituted a “Preferred Risk Policy”
grandfather rule that might provide some flexibility to homeowners whose
property is changed to a higher risk designation under the proposed DFIRM.

Under the grandfather rule, eligible
property owners would be allowed to purchase Preferred Risk Policies that could
lock in their rates when the policies are renewed, the MDE said. The policies
would have to be purchased before the new DFIRM maps take effect, it added.