Jacksonville city leaders take issue with FEMA study on flooding

All of downtown now considered a flood area.

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – FEMA is conducting its first study of the North Carolina coast’s risk of flooding since 1980.

The study is producing new flood maps for much of eastern Carolina.

Jacksonville is affected the most, with all of downtown now considered a flood area.

An additional 866 structures in the downtown area will be in the new flood zones. Most of them are houses along Court Street.

There’s also a change in flood level elevation for structures in the pre-existing maps.

“The maps are going from, in some cases, zero to 10 feet. In other areas, from four to ten feet,” explained Ryan King, planning and permitting administrator. “So we’ve seen an increase in the storm surge.”

The new maps were built using areal views. It’s where city officials say the problem began.

“They used four named storm systems and one of those was hurricane Fran and the model identifies that with a storm surge of 8 feet and we didn’t see about 8 foot of water,” said King. “We saw about 6 feet of water.”

For homeowners living in the new zones, expenses could soon add up.

“It definitely will change which lots can be built on, methods that they build,” said Ron Massey, Jacksonville Deputy City Manager. “Along the coast, houses are built in such a way that the living areas aren’t within the potential flood zone areas.”

Then, there’s flood insurance premiums.

“For those that don’t currently have flood insurance, because they’re not required to have any, to all of a sudden have to have flood insurance at $14,000 a year is going to be very costly,” said Massey.

FEMA’s new maps were released in June.

The city is working now to complete its surveys in time to contest any discrepancies.

Currently, Jacksonville requires all structures to be built with a base floor elevation of three feet above the flood level.

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