ABC Stormwater Flooding Group - Jul 10th, 2018

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Lyons Hearing Room, Arlington Town Hall.

Attending were Wayne Chouinard (Arlington), Jennifer Letourneau (Cambridge), Joy Duperault (Director of DCR's Flood Hazard Management Program), and perhaps a dozen members of the public. Ms. Duperault gave a presentation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Community Rating System (CRS).

In Massachusetts, 341 of 351 communities participate in the NFIP. Participation is voluntary. Property owners in participating communities can purchase insurance through the NFIP; property owners in non-participating communities have to find flood insurance through other sources.

There are four components to the NFIP: mapping, rating insurance policies, regulating flood plain development, and flood mitigation.

Related to this are state building codes, the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, and local bylaws.

As of May 2018, there were 63,000 NFIP policies in MA, with an average premium of $1,237/year. There are 674 policy holders in Arlington, 53 in Belmont, and 616 in Cambridge.

Cambridge is a member of the Community Rating System, with a grade of 9. This allows Cambridge residents to get a 5% discount on flood insurance premiums. By participating in the NFIP, a community gets a rating of 10. Beyond basic participation, communities can do certain things to become part of the CRS and improve their rating (smaller numbers indicate higher ratings). Things like open space management and development standards can improve a community's CRS rating. The CRS application process is both time- and labor-intensive; communities have to thoroughly document all of the CRS-related activities they're undertaking. Massachusetts has 21 communities in the CRS. Scituate is the highest-rated community, with a rating of 7.

Since 1978, there have been

  • 403 flood claims in Arlington, with an average cost of $4,700
  • 17 claims in Belmont, with an average cost of $6,700
  • 37 claims in Cambridge, with an average cost of $49,600.

These costs are a straight average over time, without adjustments for inflation.

In 2014, Congress instructed FEMA to send letters to policyholders, stating how rates were determined. This is one of the reasons that many policy holders have recently received letters. For example, people in my neighborhood received letter D a few months ago:

FEMA's maps provide a rough measure of risk, and they're trying to use elevation certificates to better quantify the risks associated with individual properties. In the past, you could take out a flood insurance policy without having an elevation certificate. Now, all new policy holders must provide elevation certificates.

Insurance rates for a primary residence are lower than those for a non-primary residence.

FEMA is working towards the long-term goal of ``Risk Rating 2.0. They want to model risk at a more granular level, like major insurers do. They see elevation certificates as a way of getting closer to an actuarial rate. The eventual goal is point-based actuarial risk. FEMA is working towards this, but they don't yet have a concrete timeline.

At present, FEMA does not consider the long-term effects of climate change, but congress has asked them to take this into consideration.

Every town that participates in the NFIP has floodplain administrator. It's often a secondary responsibility (e.g., a town clerk may also be the floodplain administrator). is FEMA's map service center. is Mass Oliver, the state's GIS mapping system. It's another tool one can use to see maps of special flood hazard areas. is Climate Ready Boston, Boston's climate resiliency site.

DCR is looking at upgrading the Charles River and Amelia Earhardt dams. (No details on what those upgrades might entail, however). is the Massachusetts Silver Jackets Team. This is an army corp of engineers effort, where they collaborate with other agencies after a flood. One of their projects involves putting up placards to show high water marks from various flooding events, as a way of illustrating flood inundation.

FEMA has a large number of publications related to flooding. For example, here's a list of technical bulletins:

Core Logic is one of the large data providers to insurance companies. They recently produced a document called the Core Logic Storm Surge report, This is a study of residential structures at risk of storms and flooding. is Resilient MA. This is a site about Massachusetts climate change resiliency efforts. Expect a major plan to appear here in August. This plan will include high-priority items for DCR.