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New FEMA maps increase lake properties that need flood insurance

New FEMA maps increase lake properties that need flood insurance

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flooding lake ontario   HICKEY

Water washes over Olcott's East Pier on May 20, 2019. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

More than 300 residents in Erie and Niagara counties who do not currently need to buy flood insurance for their properties soon may be required to do so.

About 100 local residents, however, won't have to buy flood insurance anymore.

Either way, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the keeper of the flood plain maps, won't inform them individually, so it's up to those residents to find out who needs the insurance and who doesn't any longer.

Record-high water levels in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and other climatic data have led FEMA to revise the maps for communities along the lakes, said Andrew Martin, chief of FEMA's regional Risk Analysis Branch.

The new maps are online, and they were also sent to city and town governments of communities that border on the lakes or the Niagara River.

Martin said the easiest way to access the maps is to type "FEMA map changes viewer" into a search engine, or check with your city or town building inspection department.

The maps are subject to challenge by individual residents and local governments, and they are probably about 15 months away from being finalized, Martin said.

Another way to find out about their contents is to attend one of three open houses with FEMA representatives next week.

The first meeting is set from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the LaSalle branch of the Niagara Falls Public Library, 8728 Buffalo Ave.

A Buffalo session will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Old First Ward Community Center, 62 Republic St.

The final meeting is set from 4 to 8 p.m. July 25 in Hamburg Town Hall, 6100 South Park Ave.

The owner of any building located in a "100-year flood plain" who has a federally backed mortgage is required to buy flood insurance.

Martin said the average premium is under $2,000 a year, but it can be more depending on the specific location and the value of the building.

"If they're supposed to buy flood insurance and they don't, their banks will do it for them. That's not usually the best scenario," Martin said.

Banks often buy the most expensive policy with the lowest deductible, he said. The cost is taken out of a homeowners' escrow accounts or added to their mortgage payments.

The federal government offers a temporary policy – for newly included homeowners only – that costs about $400 a year, Martin said.

In Erie County, 1,614 properties are included in the revised lakeshore and riverfront flood zones. Martin said 216 properties have been newly added, while 60 others are being deleted.

In Niagara County, 1,240 properties are within the proposed new flood zone boundaries, with 100 new ones included and 40 current ones deleted.

Communities affected by the new maps in Erie County include the cities of Buffalo, Tonawanda and Lackawanna and the towns of Grand Island, Tonawanda, Hamburg, Evans and Brant, Martin said.

In Niagara County, the changes affect the cities of Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda, the towns of Wheatfield, Lewiston, Porter, Wilson, Newfane and Somerset, and the villages of Lewiston, Youngstown and Wilson.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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