The Federal Emergency Management Agency has proposed changes to Dewey Beach flood maps. Property owners have 90 days to review the maps and appeal the changes.
The period began March 12 and will last until June 10.
David King, planning commission chair, said changes to the maps can change the insurance rates, negatively or positively, of 30 to 50 properties. Some of the proposed changes are a result of improved technology used to measure the topography, King said.
“Along Route 1 it used to be a hard line, but because the instruments measuring the topography is so much better, it's now a serpentine path,” he said. “I'm not surprised by the new line. They clearly didn't take into count local topography in the past.”
King said different construction standards are established for each zone, which would come into play only for new construction or a significant renovation.
Bud Clark, an insurance agent for The Williams Agency in Rehoboth Beach, confirmed a structure would be subject to different insurance rates if flood zone changes.
Clark said new flood rates are expected to be implemented Monday, March 2, 2015, but the date has already delayed once. The new rates had originally been scheduled to change in August. Will they be delayed again?
“It's anybody's guess,” said Clark who has been in the insurance industry for 20 years.
Many of the proposed changes move a property from the AE zone, a flood zone, to the VE zone, or an area affected by wave action. King said FEMA considers the VE zone more hazardous because the waves have the potential to do more damage.
One of these areas is along Route 1 between the bayside of Swedes and Saulsbury streets. Starting at Route 1 and heading west towards Bayard Avenue, about half the properties on the block are affected.
Oceanside blocks from Clayton to St. Louis streets also changed. The entire block of Clayton and Houston streets, and the oceanfront properties between Houston and St. Louis streets are now included in the wave-action zone.
Not all the proposals move properties from a lower level of hazard to a higher level. Many of the properties along the east side of Route 1, from Bellevue to Collins streets have moved from the VE zone to the AE zone.
King said one area of surprise were the changes in the depths of the AE zone. The depths shown are what would be expected if a 100-year-storm were to hit. The current map shows the entire section at 6 feet. The proposal shows the area along the bay and Route 1 at 6 feet with a thick strip in the middle at 5 feet. King attributed the height variance to the topography technology.
For more information on the proposed map changes and on the appeals process, go to the Dewey Beach website and click on the Flood Insurance Rate Map Community Review Period link at the top.
To get a specific look at how a property would be affect, use the FEMA website http://maps.riskmap3.com/DE/Sussex/.