09/13/12 — Insurance rates drop for county's flood areas

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Insurance rates drop for county's flood areas

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 13, 2012 1:46 PM

Wayne County's efforts to minimize property damage caused by flooding in its flood plain areas have also benefited residents who have standard flood insurance policies.

By exceeding the standards set by the National Flood Insurance Program, county residents will receive a 20 percent discount on their flood insurance premiums.

Wayne and Mecklenburg counties own the only Class 6 ratings in the state -- one of the lowest ratings in the country. Across the U.S., two counties are ranked as Class 2, four are Class 4 and 18 are Class 5. All other counties are Class 6 or higher. Goldsboro has a Class 8 rating in its Special Flood Hazard Area and a 10 percent discount.

The flood insurance coverage is only available in communities that have joined the National Flood Insurance Program. They agree to meet minimum standards for development in flood hazard areas.

However, communities are encouraged to exceed the minimum requirements and in 1990, the Federal Emergency Management Agency implemented the community rating system to evaluate the communities that have adopted the higher flood plain management practices.

The incentive is the lower insurance premiums.

Wayne County entered the regular program on Sept. 16, 1991, and currently has 376 flood insurance policies in the county with more than $75 million worth of coverage.

The 158 standard policy holders will save more than $17,000 over the next year. The remaining 218 policies are for properties outside the flood plain and already receive a favorable rate.

Since 1991 the program has paid more than $4 million of claims for 128 flood losses in the county.

The county started as Class 9 and was a Class 7 before the most recent rating.

County Planner Connie Price said the effort to meet and exceed the requirements has been worth it on several levels including reducing the potential for flood damage and providing the discount on premiums.

"Some of those include where we require a two-foot freeboard above the flood plain elevation for construction," Price said. "What that means is whenever the flood plain elevation is set by FEMA, if somebody is building in a flood plain we require not only that the finished floor be at that level, but that it be two feet higher than that level.

"We send out a brochure each year to people who live in the flood plain and remind them of that and what they should do to prepare for in the event of a flood. There are about 500 dwellings or structures out in the flood plain that is in the county's jurisdiction. There are others inside of Goldsboro and Seven Springs. We have a lot of vacant property out there also. We probably have several thousand vacant parcels."

A number of those parcel were acquired, using FEMA and state money, following the historic flooding level caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

"We get credit for that," he said. "It won't have anything built on it."

In total, Wayne County has purchased and removed more than 300 structures from the flood plain since 1999 and restricted this land from further development.

Subdivisions cannot be wholly located in a flood plain. A portion of it has to be out of that area. For example the subdivision at Mar Mac that was destroyed by Floyd's flooding could not be rebuilt, Price said.

If a person has property that high ground and low ground they can set aside the low ground and develop the high ground, Price said.

The county's other activities include maintaining copies of the elevation certificates, an annual community brochure with flood insurance information, requiring final subdivision plats to provide flood hazard information, make information available on the county website, preserve open space in the flood zone, good stormwater management.

Other regulations adopted by the county that exceed the minimum National Flood Insurance Program standards, including:

* A zero-rise standard throughout the zero-rise floodway to preserve flood convey

* Requirement for new lots to have at least 15,000 square feet outside the flood plain

* Restriction on structures in the FEMA floodway

* Standards for manufactured home parks located in the flood plain

* Restriction on critical facilities in the flood plain

* Density restrictions in portions of the flood plain based on zoning.