Hawaii County’s New Flood Hazard Maps – What You Need to Know About Them

There are some important new changes happening along the Kohala Coast that could affect your need for flood insurance and/or your insurance rates. With so many residents in the Kohala Coast resorts dividing their time between Hawaii and other parts of the country, Eileen and the team at Hawaii Beach and Golf Properties wanted to keep you abreast of these new government changes.

Hawaii County officials recently announced changes to its Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM), identifying new flood risk hazard zones. These county maps are being updated in conjunction with FEMA and will enable Hawaii County to receive future federal disaster aid should the island experience a natural disaster.

Updating these maps has been a decade-long effort and the maps themselves have not been revised in 35 years. As a result, many areas that were previously considered low-risk for flooding have now been categorized as high risk – regardless of recent flood activity.

These new flood hazard maps go into effect September 29, 2017 and depending on where you live, could significantly impact your flood insurance rates and/or need for flood insurance.

If you:

  • Have a federally-backed mortgage,
  • Own property along a stream channel or oceanfront property AND
  • Your property is in the new “high-risk” flood hazard zone

You have until September 28, 2017 to purchase flood insurance in order to be grandfathered in at existing low rates. If you wait until after September 29, 2017 to purchase flood insurance, you will pay a much higher rate. The good news is that if you do purchase flood insurance at the current low rates before the new maps go into effect, it may be possible to transfer the lower rate to new property owners should you decide to sell your property, thus making it an appealing benefit to prospective future buyers.

How does this affect you?

1. The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources has created a website http://gis.hawaiinfip.org/fhat/ regarding the new flood hazard maps. Type in your address and you can see if your property falls in the new high-risk flood hazard zones. Bear in mind county, state, and federal officials are not notifying homeowners that they may fall in the new high-risk flood zones. You have to take it upon yourself to verify whether or not your property now falls in these newly designated high-risk flood areas.

2. Talk to your insurance agent about flood insurance. Depending on your location and needs, you may want to increase your flood insurance, or consider buying a new policy. You can learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program and answers to frequently asked questions about buying flood insurance at: https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program/How-Buy-Flood-Insurance. You can also contact Bryce Harada, the Hawaii County Floodplains Manager at the County Department of Public Works at (808) 961-8327.

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