FEMA Changing South Kona Floodplain – Questions and Answers for Residents

Why is FEMA changing the South Kona Floodplain?

The purpose of the Preliminary Flood Insurance Study (FIS) is to identify changes to flood hazards in the South Kona district.  This area has undergone an increase in residential and agricultural development since 1977.


There are two phases to the study. Phase 1 is for watercourses 13-20, in Hōnaunau, Keōkea and a small section of Kiilae affecting property owners with tax map keys 8-4-004, 8-4-006, 8-4-008, 8-4-011, 8-4-012, 8-4-014, and 8-4-015.  Residents along watercourses 1-12 and 21-25 in phase 2 will receive notices before the end of summer.

The preliminary FIS analyzed the 10% (10-year), 4% (25-year), 2% (50-year), 1% (100-year), and 0.2% (500-year) chance of flooding events, the floodplain or Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) boundaries, and the Base Flood Elevations (BFE).

The benefits of an updated Flood Insurance Study are:

  • Hydraulic modeling, hydrologic methodology and topographic maps are updated.
  • A 100-year base flood elevation (BEF) established.
  • Community planners and local officials gain an understanding of the flood hazards and public health and safety affecting the community and,
  • Home and business owners can make informed decisions about their insurance policy.

How does the new map affect me financially?

For structures in a Zone AE Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), flood insurance is mandatory for buildings with mortgages back by the federal government.  For structures in Zone X (outside of the SFHA), flood insurance is suggested but is not mandatory.

FEMA is offering a “Preferred Risk Policy Eligibility Extension,” a lower cost insurance rate for properties recently mapped into high-risk flood zones on or after October 1, 2008.  Http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/prp_extension_information.jsp

What is the next step?

FEMA will begin its statutory 90-day appeal period allowing property owners the opportunity to submit appeals and protests on the preliminary FIS.  FEMA will issue in the local newspapers an advisory of its statutory 90-day appeal period with contact information for submitting appeals.

After the review and appeal periods have ended and all comments/appeals addressed, FEMA will begin final preparation of the FIS, which will both become effective six months later. For detailed information on appeals process, cut and paste in the browser http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=4935

How do I submit an appeal or protest?

A property owner must submit technical and/or scientific data to file a protest regarding the accuracy of the flood study for their property to the County of Hawai‘i Floodplain Manager, Frank DeMarco fdemarco@hawaiicounty.gov  Supporting data will be reviewed if it constitutes a valid appeal or protest. 

If a property owner does not agree with FEMA’s Letter of Map Revision (LOMR)

Owners who believe their property is not in the Special Flood Hazard Area, (SFHA) may contact the County of Hawai‘i Floodplain Manager, Frank DeMarco (961-8042) or Carter Romero (961-8943) cromero@hawaiicounty.gov at the Department of Public Works Engineers’ division in Hilo, weekdays, from 7:00 AM to 4:30 PM.  Maps are also available Engineers’ office at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center.

FEMA offers an online tutorial to walk the applicant through the stages to have a property removed from a SFHA. Click on http://www.fema.gov/online-tutorials/letter-map-amendment/letter-map-revision-f-tutorial-series-choose-tutorial

Ten (10) percent discount on flood insurance

In 1968, the U.S. Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Act, which created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to reduce future flood losses through local floodplain management and provide protection for property owners against potential losses through flood insurance.  The County of Hawai‘i is responsible for submitting revised flood hazard data to FEMA to revise the FIS, and Preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs).  The NFIP map revisions allow risk premium insurance rates and flood plain management requirements based on current data.

The County of Hawai‘i also participates in the NFIP’s Community Rating System (CRS) enabling people with property in designated flood zones to purchase flood insurance at a lower rate.  The County of Hawai‘i has a class 8 rating, offering a ten (10) discount on flood insurance premiums to these property owners.

The CRS objective is to reward communities that do more than meet the minimum NFIP requirements to help citizens prevent or reduce flood losses.  CRS does this by providing incentives to communities to initiate flood protection activities through floodplain management and public outreach.

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