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Albany County flood plains being updated

Preliminary maps comment period open, affects insurance rates and building requirements

A gazebo outside of Forts Ferry Road home is submerged in water from the rising levels of the Mohawk River after Tropical Storm Irene hit the Capital District. Flood maps in Albany County are being revised to better represent flooding potential.

A gazebo outside of Forts Ferry Road home is submerged in water from the rising levels of the Mohawk River after Tropical Storm Irene hit the Capital District. Flood maps in Albany County are being revised to better represent flooding potential.

— For residents of the Capital District living near streams and rivers, the impact of Tropical Storm Irene was nothing short of massive. And for government officials who worry about flooding, it was a wake up call.

The official flood maps in Albany County are in the process of being redrawn. The majority of the maps were last drawn in the 1980s. It’s not unusual for flood maps to be old – in 2003, when a federal push for updated maps started, more than 70 percent of maps nationwide were at least a decade old.

Congress that year provided funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop and implement the MapMod program. The initiative creates countywide digital flood maps using more current data and allows for maps to go from paper to digital.

“This is a nationwide goal by FEMA. We realized that the flood maps were outdated. There have been a lot of new technologies coming out to determine new flood maps and better mapping,” said Senior Engineer at FEMA Region II Paul Weberg. Region II covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Flood maps lay out floodplain boundaries and identify where flooding is most likely to occur in storms of varying strengths. The boundaries of flood zones can have a major effect on homeowners because it can greatly influence the need for flood insurance and what rates it might be offered at.

Since the latest flood maps were drawn, Weberg said there has been “a lot of building” and new developments.

“With the newer technology some are added and some are taken out, which is what we find nationwide from (areas with rivers) … it is usually a balancing act where some are added and some are deleted,” Weberg said.

The appeals and comments period for the new Albany County maps opened in April and is ending July 2. Weberg suggested residents visit their local building inspector to review the preliminary maps in person. He said any comments should also be given to the building inspector to submit during the appeals period.

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