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Updated Fulton County flood maps likely to change insurance plans

For 250 Fulton County homeowners, a new generation of federal flood maps brings good news: their property isn't considered to be in a flood zone anymore.

"I've had people asking me if they can drop their flood insurance now, or if they have to wait," Steve Brown, the county's planning director, told Delta village council during a recent discussion.

But for 82 others, the updates to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps that an Ohio Department of Natural Resources consultant has drawn up bring less welcome news: part or all of their property will be considered a flood risk.

For them, that may mean a flood-insurance bill of between $200 and $800 a year, especially if they take out a mortgage after the new maps officially take effect at year's end, Mr. Brown said.

"And if the [current] mortgage company checks, they could require insurance, too," he said.

Besides the likely flood-insurance requirement, being in a flood zone invokes restrictions on building and earth-moving.

New flood-zone landowners who wish to fight that designation have until June 8 to file appeals, although the process requires that a mapping error has been made.

Appeals typically take six months to adjudicate, Mr. Brown said.

Fulton County is the latest of numerous Ohio counties whose flood maps are being revised under a federal campaign to improve accuracy, and thus flood planning and insurance coverage.

"We will have one master map for the county," Mr. Brown said. "It will be more precise, because we have better surveying technology now."

Letters have been sent to all affected homeowners, and the planning director said the primary reaction his office has received has been surprise, rather than hostility.

But the potential insurance expense has been a tough pill for some to swallow in hard economic times, he said.

Sometime in June, Mr. Brown said, the county will hold meetings with officials from its townships and villages to advise them about how they should change their building regulations to adapt to the new flood maps.

The update campaign started after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he said, but is starting to lose momentum.

"Some counties are not getting updates because the funding is running out," Mr. Brown said, citing neighboring Williams County as an example.

Flood-map revisions were conducted in Lucas County last year, resulting in particularly widespread changes in the county's western townships.

Mr. Brown said affected properties are scattered throughout Fulton County with the most near the Tiffin River and its tributary, Bean Creek.

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