Good news, bad news with new flood plain maps

In this FEMA flood plain map draft, Cannon Beach's downtown area would be removed from the flood plain.

The city of Cannon Beach doesn’t want to wait to adopt new flood plain maps. Despite delays in the North County in flood-prone areas affected by the Columbia River, Cannon Beach officials say they like the federal government’s new maps and the city could see cost savings with their adoption.

Flood insurance rates rose significantly two years ago and subsidies were phased out last year.

At the council’s July 14 work session, planner Mark Barnes said it could take months to solve the issues up north while changes are “overwhelmingly good” for Cannon Beach.

Flood plain maps have two significant uses, to set flood insurance rates and to provide cities with guidelines for regulation. New construction in the flood plain is required to be above reach of the 100-year flood level.

“The entire downtown area comes out of the flood plain,” Barnes said. “The cost savings there are tremendous for those property owners.”

The city is urging acceptance of the Standard Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map drafts from the federal government despite accuracy concerns in flood-prone areas affected by the Columbia River, near Warrenton and Astoria. These concerns have stalled adoption of all Federal Emergency Management Agency mapping work throughout Clatsop County, including Cannon Beach.

The map changes wouldn’t be good news for all, though.

Councilwoman Melissa Cadwallader asked about the impacts on those living along the waterfront.

Barnes is still waiting on that particular map, but answered it would likely be a 50-50 split. Some insurance rates for waterfront area homeowners would rise and others would lower or remain the same.

Oceanfront homes are most affected by velocity flooding, caused by storm surges, as opposed to downtown flooding which would come from overflows in storm drains.

The new maps show potential risks from velocity flooding that could impact homes on the beach. This could result in higher insurance rates for homeowners and new regulations regarding construction or rebuilding.

“I think if we’re going to be helping a majority of our citizens, then we should do it,” Councilor George Vetter said of the map revision request.

But he also sought more information and numbers on those affected first.

Barnes has requested the new maps and plans to bring them to the August work session for review.

“If I haven’t made that clear, the map is going to be effective at some point in the future, the only question is whether we try to take measures to put it into effect sooner rather than later,” he said.

Officials are exploring the possibility of sending a map revision request to FEMA to allow it to begin using the new flood plain maps, possibly within 90 days if approved.

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