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Oct 28, 2005

FEMA's Flood Map Modernization Under Fire

Efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to modernize its flood maps have come under fire recently. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that on Tuesday, the Home Security Department's inspector general issued a report on FEMA's flood map modernization program. While the report said that FEMA is making progress in modernizing its maps, a number of significant problems remain. Among the report's findings:
  • A lack of guidance on new mapping standards threatens to throw the effort off schedule.
  • FEMA has not developed policies and agreements that would allow it to cooperate with other federal mapping agencies.
The report recommended that FEMA review its program to identify high-risk areas, develop guidelines for producing accurate flood maps and improve contractor oversight. FEMA called the findings useful and said the recommendations are "generally consistent with our current plans."

FEMA's Flood Insurance Rate Maps are used to identify flood prone areas and in setting insurance rates for flood insurance policies. In the past, engineers, surveyors and city planners were pratically the only people familiar with the flood maps. The flooding following Hurricane Katrina has placed a new importance on updating and improving the maps, many of which are seriously outdated. The agency has undertaken a program to eliminate the old paper maps and implement a new, modern, web-based mapping program. The modernization is scheduled for completion in 2010.