New floodplain maps provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Washington will take effect Oct. 18.

Before that date, the city must officially adopt the maps as well as an ordinance that regulates development in the new floodplain.

An ordinance to adopt the new maps and flood elevations for development are expected to go before Washington City Council members Sept. 6.

If Washington does not adopt the new maps, citizens will not be able to purchase flood insurance through FEMA’s national insurance program.

City Engineer Dan Boyce said the new maps will replace the maps currently being used, which were adopted in 1982.

The city also has a hard copy of a booklet that contains new elevations for development in specified cross sections throughout local creeks.

At the Aug. 8 Washington Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, members will likely review proposed changes to flood elevations for development in the city.

“We currently regulate new building or development in a floodplain by requiring structures be built 2 feet above the 500-year flood levels,” Boyce said.

City staff are proposing to change that to 2 feet above the 100-year flood levels.

“In most places throughout town, not all, the new 100-year flood (elevations) are more restrictive than the old 500-year flood (elevations),” Boyce explained.

This would affect both new development as well as additions to current structures.

Boyce said city staff are currently trying to identify how many and which structures will be affected by the new maps.

Some that were not originally in a floodplain may now be in one and others that are currently in a floodplain may no longer be in one.

Affected property owners will be notified, if they have not been already.

Over the past several years, the city has bought out several properties in the floodplains and along creeks throughout Washington.

Flood Insurance

If a property changes from low-risk to high-risk under new floodplain maps, property owners will likely be required to protect their building and its contents at a higher rate.

However, under a grandfathering provision in FEMA’s flood insurance program, property owners can buy a policy before the new maps take effect to keep a lower rate.

The city is encouraging these owners to talk with their insurance agents before the new maps take effect Oct. 18.

“If the current structure complies with all current rules and regulations concerning floodplains, and if you purchased flood insurance based on the 1982 or current FEMA floodplain maps and that floodplain increases, the rates would be frozen at existing elevations if you buy before the new maps take effect,” Boyce explained.

The provision is allowed as long as the policy is in place and the policyholder does not allow it to lapse, he added.

The rates under the grandfathering provision also can be transferred to new owners if the structure is sold, Boyce explained.