BOTHELL, Wash. – Unincorporated Island County, Wash., will be placed on probationary status with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on March 30 unless deficiencies in its floodplain management program are corrected. The county must also address violations of the construction criteria that are required for participation in the NFIP.
When a community joins the NFIP, it voluntarily adopts local floodplain management regulations to meet NFIP minimum floodplain management criteria. Placement on probation is a formal notice to the community that the local floodplain management program is not compliant with the criteria of the NFIP and is the first step in the process to suspend the community’s eligibility to participate in the NFIP.
A Community Assistance Visit conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Sept. 10, 2013, with a subsequent report provided to the community on March 13, 2014, identified the program deficiencies and apparent violations. FEMA has worked with the community over the past six years to encourage compliance and provide assistance.
The program deficiencies include:
- Noncompliant floodplain management regulations.
- Failure to maintain an adequate permitting process to ensure development in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is properly permitted and inspected to ensure compliance with the permit.
The apparent violations include:
- Buildings constructed in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) with lowest floors below the Base Flood Elevation.
- Buildings constructed in the SFHA on solid foundation walls without the required flood openings.
- Buildings constructed with crawlspaces out of conformance with the performance standards required in under the NFIP.
During the probationary period, flood insurance coverage will remain available within unincorporated Island County although a $50 surcharge will be added to the premium of each new and renewed flood insurance policy sold within the county’s unincorporated areas for at least one year from the effective date of probation. NFIP policyholders in unincorporated Island County have been sent notification of the impending probation and the potential surcharge. Unincorporated Island County has 881 flood insurance policies in force with a total coverage of nearly $248 million.
A review of the county’s efforts to remedy the violations will be conducted six months after the start of probation to determine whether to lift the probation after one year or to move toward suspension.
Suspension from the NFIP would mean that federal agencies are prohibited from making grants, loans, or guarantees for the acquisition or construction of structures located in the SFHA. Lending institutions insured or regulated by a federal agency may continue to make conventional loans in these areas at their discretion, although loans backed by federal insurance such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or Federal Housing Administration (FHA) cannot be made in the SFHA.
If a flood disaster occurs in a suspended community, most types of federal disaster assistance would not be available. This includes the acquisition, construction, or repair of insurable structures within the SFHA as well as federal assistance to individuals and households for housing and personal property.
FEMA will continue to provide technical assistance and guidance to Island County to resolve these program deficiencies and correct the violations to the maximum extent possible. The goal is to ensure that the community continues to participate in the NFIP and the residents and property owners continue to have flood insurance coverage and the other benefits of being participants in the NFIP available.
FEMA’s Mission is helping people before, during, and after disasters.