Beaufort County should have been among the first to get updated flood maps that are used in setting flood insurance rates.
Instead, Beaufort and neighboring Jasper counties are last in the state and lagging behind the coastal areas of Georgia and North Carolina as well.
It has taken more than a decade to update the maps, and they are still not available. That is inexcusable.
This is not a matter of “me first.” It is a matter of logic. It also is a matter of common sense and common courtesy.
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Not only are the maps crucial to consumers, they are critical to the economy — especially the coastal economy. The maps are a key player in the health of the real estate market, which is a major local and statewide industry.
Common sense dictates that you address the greatest need first.
In Beaufort County, 61 percent of the land area is made up of floodplains.
Beaufort County leads statewide in the number of flood insurance policies. More than 50,000 property owners in Beaufort County — most of them on Hilton Head Island — have a flood insurance policy, Federal Emergency Management Agency data shows. The collective value of insured property exceeds $14.2 billion.
Inaccurate flood maps can mean millions of dollars in additional insurance costs.
And an analysis of federal flood insurance premiums by our reporter, Kelly Meyerhofer, found that new maps have led to savings in some South Carolina counties.
Meanwhile, the critical map project stagnates as the National Flood Insurance Program warns the public on its website: “Know your area. Learn your flood risk.”
How can we?
After federal law mandated updated flood maps in 2000, the state of Georgia had the good sense to first tackle the areas of densest population (metro Atlanta, for example) and then the coastline.
Georgia received FEMA funding for coastal remapping in 2010 — about four years after South Carolina — but is on track to have coastal counties’ maps take effect six months before Beaufort County’s.
Our state Department of Natural Resources offers no good reason that a county with some of the greatest flood vulnerability and property values is still working off 1986 maps.
Yes, the mapping is a tedious and slow process. It requires input from both the state and the federal government’s behemoth FEMA. But that cannot justify a decade of delay.
This poor service comes at a crucial time for local consumers and the economy.
Congress has moved to quit subsidizing the flood insurance policies because the National Flood Insurance Program has built up a deficit of some $25 billion. Future rates are to reflect the true cost of the risk. More than 6,500 properties in Beaufort County currently rely on subsidized insurance rates.
But many more residents and businesses face stark and expensive choices. And all of this sends tremors through the real estate market.
It is not too much to ask that the flood maps that drive the whole process be updated in a reasonable fashion.