In September 2008, new preliminary flood hazard maps (known as Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps or DFIRMs) were presented to the Santa Cruz County and to the 2 participating communities (the City of Nogales and the City of Patagonia) for review. Open houses were then held in October in Patagonia, Nogales, Tubac and Rio Rico to let the public view the maps and discuss any changes that might have occurred to their property.
Now that the preliminary maps have been released, there are a few more steps remaining before they become effective. The remaining phases include the Community Comment Period (officially known as the Appeal Period) and the Post Preliminary Processing Phase
90-Day Community Comment Period
As a mechanism to ensure that residents’ and business owners’ questions or concerns about the new map designations are addressed, the map adoption process includes a "90-day Public Review and Comment Period," officially known as the Appeal Period. To start this period, FEMA places 2 official notices in the newspaper within 10 days of each other (and 1 in the Federal Register).
Protest / Appeal
The comment period started on the day the 2nd notice is run. This started December 31, 2008 and ran until March 30, 2009. During this period, citizens had the opportunity to submit technical and/or scientific data to support a claim that their property has been improperly placed in a high-risk area or the map shows an incorrect flood elevation. Citizens who feel they have better information, such as an elevation certificate, topographic map or detailed hydraulic or hydrologic data, can protest or appeal the flood risk indicated by the new maps.
A 2nd period was held from January 1st to March 31st, 2010, due to changes resulting from the original period.
Review of Appeals and Protests
Once FEMA receives an appeal or protest, FEMA will request any additional support data through a letter to community officials who will then contact the property owner for the additional data. FEMA will allow approximately 30 days for submittal of the required data.
Data submitted within the 30-day period will be considered in resolving the objections. If the data is not provided within the 30-day period, FEMA will resolve the appeals or protests using the data originally submitted.
Supported Appeals / Protests
If appeals and/or protests are adequately supported, FEMA will revise the base flood elevations, floodplain boundaries, regulatory floodway boundaries, and any other information affected by the objections. If appropriate, FEMA will revise the affected map panel(s) and/or FIS report material(s).
If an appeal or protest is denied, FEMA will inform the community or other interested parties by letter and provide an explanation for the denial.
If property owners are unable to obtain and submit the appropriate support data within the 90-day appeal period, they may pursue a formal map revision after the map has become effective through a Letter of Map Change.
Letter of Final Determination
Once FEMA agrees to all changes and to the final DFIRM and the accompanying Flood Insurance Study (FIS), a Letter of Final Determination (LFD) is issued by FEMA. A posting is also made by FEMA in the Federal Register.
This is also a 6-month notice for Santa Cruz County and the 2 communities to pass ordinances to adopt the new DFIRM (if they haven’t yet) and for property owners to start considering their flood insurance options, depending upon how the new DFIRMs will affect them. Also during this time, FEMA begins to create the final Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map.
The letter of Official Determination was issued June 6, 2011.
Map Effective Date
At the end of those 6 months, the new flood maps become effective, which was December 2, 2011.