Martinez: New ‘flood zone’ boundaries, more to need flood insurance

MEG Editor’s Note: And somehow this article manages to avoid the phrase “climate change induced sea level rise”.

By Dana Guzzetti Correspondent     Contra Costa Times

MARTINEZ — The city’s “flood zone” boundary will officially extend further inland as of Sept. 30, meaning that homeowners with federally insured loans who live near water could be required to buy flood insurance.

And homeowners who already have flood insurance but who have not made arrangements for their plans to be “grandfathered in” can expect substantial insurance rate increases, as all standard flood insurance rates are going up.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made new maps of the coastal and aquatic areas of the entire United States. The map of the area including Martinez also shows areas where the flood plain has been decreased and where zone designations have been changed.

The city of Martinez has participated in the National Flood Insurance Program since 1995, and the local code must conform to the FEMA designation for the flood plain. For that reason, the city council on July 15 unanimously agreed to amend the city’s Flood Management Ordinance to conform to new FEMA maps, designations and rules.

This ordinance also requires additional permitting and evaluation before any new development takes place the affected zones.

The flood zone in Martinez was enlarged to include areas where “storm induced wind and wave action” could affect properties north of the railroad tracks, according to City Engineer Tim Tucker.

Homeowners who might be in the newly designated flood areas were invited to a public workshop in July, and only one person came, according to Xing Liu, FEMA Area 9 community compliance agent.

Tucker said the low turnout might have been because much of the impacted area belongs to the city, Shell Martinez oil and Caltrans. And, “Maybe the other property owners don’t have a loan,” Tucker said. “Even people without mortgages may want to purchase flood insurance in these areas.”

Richard Verrilli asked the council how he could find more information rate increases, which impact his property near Alhambra Creek in an existing flood zone. Mayor Rob Schroder said FEMA subsidizes all flood insurance rates, and that all of the different company’s rates are about the same, except for Lloyd’s of London (not subsidized). But the subsidy amounts are decreasing.

“I am concerned about the absolute surety that we are going to have an earthquake,” Verrilli said. “There is more danger of an earthquake … we don’t have earthquake insurance (mandated).”

Rate increases for existing flood insurance policies start to increase 20 percent every year beginning Oct. 1 and continuing until the rate reaches the full-risk rates for such zones.

Visit (for maps click on search all products) or call Xing Liu, FEMA agent for this area at 510-612-5601 or City Engineer Tim Tucker, 925-372-3562.

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