Omaha area residents look at new proposed FEMA flood maps

The Papio NRD and FEMA held an open house to discuss the new flood maps released in February 2022.
We've had some severe flooding in recent years and right now FEMA is reassessing some of our area waterways.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 10:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Big Papillion-Mosquito Creek watershed covers Omaha-metro and surrounding counties, and the map of those who may be required to pay flood insurance is about to change.

So the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District wanted to show why.

Jamie Reinke, an engineer for the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, was one of seven engineers meeting face to face with water adjacent property owners from Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, and Washington counties, trying to explain what FEMA’s new preliminary flood plain maps mean to them. Some will no longer be required to buy flood insurance, while others will now fall into the high-risk zones, where those with federally backed loans are required to carry coverage.

”We’ve been questions, mostly about changes in zone designation, people are wanting to know if they have to get flood insurance, that’s a big concern because that’s extra money coming out of pockets when its already difficult,” Reinke said. “We have had a lot of individual property owners, but also have had some business owners stop by to see what changes in zone designation as well as what impact those changes will have on their ability to develop in the future.”

If you’re required to pay flood insurance now, that’s based on maps dating to the 1990s and before. The proposed flood map changes are based on state-of-the-art tech research, hopefully making for fairer assessments of high-risk property, part of FEMA’s task managing the national flood insurance program.

”In this particular case we have the latest technology called lidar, data by radar from a plane,” said mapping project director Rick Nusz, an engineer with FEMA. “The models themselves, both the hydrology and the hydraulics, both of those modelings are much more sophisticated today.”

Reinke said the types of data now available will be helpful to municipalities, developers, and homeowners near waterways.

”FEMA, in addition to having the (flood map) boundaries, they also have flood depth grids, flood analysis grids,” she said. “We can zoom in and click on a property and say, ‘this is how deep we anticipate the flooding would be at your property’ and that’s information that homeowners never had before.”

Not everyone will be pleased with the proposed changes, obviously.

They have 90 days to appeal if they believe their flood risk status was unfairly determined. By the time appeals are addressed and any changes made, it could be another year and a half before the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps go into effect.

In the meantime, the public can research their own property as well as the history of the process on local, state, and FEMA websites.

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