WAILUKU - Some people went home concerned and even a little frustrated Tuesday evening after finding that their properties would be placed in a high-risk flood zone under a proposed flood map revision.
It "doesn't make me happy," said Donna Ting, after finding out that a home she owns on Iao Loop in Wailuku could fall in a high-risk flood zone and now she might need flood insurance.
Ting, a Realtor who lives in Kula, said she already helps her son, who owns a home in low-lying Paukukalo, pay flood insurance of around $120 a month.
Lahaina resident Ernest Cabatingan and Iao resident and Maui Redevelopment Agency Chairman Bob Horcajo talk as they look over the Federal Emergency Management Area’s proposed changes to Maui County flood insurance rate maps at a community meeting Tuesday evening at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
Ladd Long, who lives at Iao Parkside in Wailuku, said his building would not be in the high-risk flood zone but a small portion of Iao Parkside's property might be if the proposals go through.
"We are going to pay the price if they mandate the flood insurance," he said outside the meeting.
Long said that if the proposals go through, residents might have to pay more in maintenance fees to cover the cost of the flood insurance.
Around 40 people attended a community meeting Tuesday evening at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku to find out if their properties would be affected under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's proposed changes to flood insurance rate maps in certain areas of the county. Meetings also were held this week on Lanai and Molokai.
The flood insurance maps are being revised because the Iao and Kaunakakai levees have been decertified, which affects properties around those areas. FEMA also has incorporated its recent hurricane study to the maps, bringing changes to coastal areas such as Hana and the southern shores of Lanai, Maui and Molokai.
The levees for Iao and Kaunakakai streams were determined to not provide the designed amount of flood protection. That came after the federal government mandated inspections for all levees following Hurricane Katrina devastation of the Gulf Coast in August 2005. The monster storm breached levees in New Orleans, flooding much of the city.
However, "this is not New Orleans," Ting pointed out.
And, she said the proposed changes are not finalized.
"All this is up in the air," she said, wondering whether the Iao levee could be recertified before the new maps are approved.
County Public Works officials, who were not present at Tuesday's meeting, said Wednesday that they have a consultant on board to help recertify Iao Stream. They said they are working on completing a report as well as dealing with right-of-way issues and have a surveyor dealing with mapping issues.
The report could be done in the next two or three months, but officials said they don't know how long it will take from then to have Iao Stream levees certified by FEMA. The effort to recertify Iao Stream is costing $300,000.
Funding is being sought in fiscal year 2012 to hire a consultant to certify levees for Kaunakakai Stream.
Since 2007, the county has been trying to have FEMA provisionally accept both Iao and Kaunakakai streams, county officials said.
County planning officials have said that changes to the maps could go into effect as early as September. But residents have a chance to appeal. A 90-day appeals process began Jan. 19.
Even though she and her family would be in a high-risk flood zone on Ainahou Place in Wailuku, retiree Dot Fujii was happy Tuesday evening. She found out that since her family does not have a federally backed loan for their home, they don't need the flood insurance. A family member said they own their Ainahou Place home outright and are too old to get the insurance.
County officials have said those who should be concerned about the changes include those with a federally backed loan for a home in a high-risk flood zone. Such property owners are required to get flood insurance.
Others affected include those who are doing "substantial improvements" to their homes and those doing construction in high-risk flood zone areas because they need to adhere to certain guidelines.
People at the meeting were able to consult with county, state and federal officials.
Some of those attending the meeting were concerned that the flood map studies for Iao Stream did not include the stream flow from the top of the West Maui Mountains.
Eric Simmons, a FEMA engineer, told the crowd that the studies try to pinpoint areas where the greatest number of people would be affected.
After the formal part of the meeting, Jana Critchfield, a FEMA flood insurance specialist said that people who might be placed in a high-risk flood zone now have time to think about their options on whether to purchase flood insurance now or wait until the proposed map changes get finalized.
She said those who purchase their insurance before the map changes are complete can be "grandfathered" into a lower flood insurance rate that could save them several hundred dollars, depending on the type of coverage selected.
She said the insurance is available through local insurance providers.
More information can be found online at floodsmart.gov.
Those needing more information may contact Francis Cerizo or Carolyn Cortez at the county's Department of Planning at 270-7253.
The preliminary digital flood insurance rate maps can be found at gis.hawaiinfip.org/fhat.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.