SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO EXAMINE OUTDATED FLOOD MAPS IN JOHNSTOWN; CURRENT MAPS, WHICH DATE BACK TO 1983, FORCE MANY FAMILIES & BUSINESS OWNERS TO PAY TOP DOLLAR FOR UNNECESSARY FLOOD INSURANCE PREMIUMS – SCHUMER URGES FEMA TO MAKE CRITICAL UPDATES TO FLOOD MAPS THAT COULD SAVE 50 PROPERTIES FROM BEING SUBJECT TO EXCESSIVE FLOOD INSURANCE PREMIUMS
Recent Study Reveals That Johnstown Shopping Center on North Comrie Ave Has Been Improperly Placed into A Flood Zone Since 1983 & Engineers Predict That Up to 50 Properties Surrounding the Mall Are Also Improperly Placed In Flood Zone, Meaning Homeowners & Businesses Must Pay High Costs For Flood Insurance Each Month For No Reason – There Very Well Could Be More Homes & Businesses Throughout Johnstown That Have Been Misplaced Too
Schumer Says Flood Maps Currently In Use Overestimate Flooding From Cayudutta Creek In Certain Areas by 4 to 6 feet; New Technology Enables Johnstown To Get A More Accurate Picture of Who Should Be in Flood Zone & Who Should Not
Schumer to FEMA: Work With Johnstown ASAP To Rectify Improper Flood Maps
Today, at the Johnstown Shopping Center, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to examine the outdated flood maps that have incorrectly placed the Johnstown Shopping Center, as well as up to 50 other properties in the surrounding area, in the Cayudutta Creek’s flood zone. Now that more comprehensive and accurate analyses are available, Schumer will urge FEMA to rectify the situation by correcting the maps and working with local leaders to ensure that thorough engineering analysis is completed to provide the data necessary to make these important adjustments. Schumer said that incorrectly being included in a flood zone means homeowners and businesses must pay high costs for flood insurance each month for no reason. Schumer said that the Johnstown flood maps were last drawn in 1983 and FEMA currently does not have plans to redraw them. However, Schumer said, because these maps are over 30 years old and new studies show that they overestimate the ability of the creek to flood by 4 to 6 feet, FEMA should consider updating the maps. Schumer noted that there is now better technology that allows Johnstown to get a more accurate depiction of who should be included in these flood maps and who should not be included, technology that was simply not available in 1983.
“Right now, FEMA potentially has up to 50 homes and properties, including the Johnstown Shopping Center, incorporated into a flood zone that should not be. When being included into these flood maps means residents and businesses are paying hundreds, even thousands, extra in flood insurance premiums, it is unacceptable to use anything other than the most accurate, up-to-date information. These onerous costs could be driving residents, and even business at shopping centers like this one, out of the area over the long-term,” said Schumer. “No family or businesses should be forced to buy sky-high flood insurance unless they truly need it. That is why I am calling on FEMA to work with the City of Johnstown to coordinate efforts and ensure that the flood maps throughout the city are accurate; so that we are not requiring homeowners and businesses that do not face flood risk to purchase flood insurance and pay elevated premiums.”
Schumer explained that FEMA originally drew its flood maps for the City of Johnstown area in 1983. At the time, however, better technology that would have allowed for a more accurate analysis of who should be included in the flood zone and who should not, was unavailable. As a result, FEMA maps were conservative in their measurements and included more properties in these maps than there should have been. Now, 30 years later, Schumer says businesses and homeowners who have had to pay excessive flood insurance premiums are requesting that additional analysis be done to survey the areas and, ultimately, appropriately adjust the maps to only include those homes and businesses that are most at risk for flooding. Schumer said that new studies show that these outdated flood maps incorrectly placed the Johnstown Shopping Center in the Cayudutta Creek’s flood zone. Under FEMA’s 1983 analysis, the Cayudutta Creek was estimated to have the potential to flood by 4 to 6 feet more than it actually would. Schumer said that city officials believe that FEMA’s overestimation of the flooding potential of this creek has likely led to more properties being improperly included in the flood zone than there should have been.
Therefore, Schumer is urging FEMA to work with the City of Johnstown to coordinate efforts and ensure that the flood maps throughout the city are accurate; so that only those homeowners and businesses that actually face flood risk are required to purchase flood insurance and pay elevated premiums. Schumer said that FEMA should work with the community and its local elected officials to ensure that the appropriate, most advanced engineering analysis is done to survey these areas and ultimately make any appropriate adjustments to ensure that the maps are accurate and up-to-date. Schumer said onerous and unnecessarily high premium costs for businesses, like those at the Johnstown Shopping Center, could take away from business opportunities or result in relocations if the costs are too high for some owners to keep up.
According to the city, an engineering analysis conducted by C.T. Male and Associates, the well-respected engineering firm, has already been completed on behalf of private business owners, including the Johnstown Shopping Center, and shared with the city for a portion of this area. Currently, the property owner and the engineering firm that conducted the analysis has submitted a Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) request to FEMA to incorporate the conclusions of this analysis into their floodplain maps. FEMA has requested additional information to process that request, and the city is also currently conducting engineering studies and analysis to submit to FEMA. Therefore, Schumer is urging FEMA to work with the community to thoroughly evaluate the area and incorporate these conclusions from the engineering analysis into the flood maps in Johnstown where it is appropriate. Together, Schumer said, both the City and FEMA should be able to conduct the analysis and reviews necessary to update the flood maps, so that any outdated or inaccurate sections of the flood map can be corrected as soon as possible. Schumer explained that businesses like the Johnstown Shopping Center and the owners of potentially 50 other properties could benefit by being removed from the mapped zone.
Schumer said that while it is inevitable that some homes will stay in the FEMA flood zone, it is important that the homes and businesses that do not need to be in the zone, or are only in there as a result of this inaccurate and outdated data, be removed in a new map. Without accounting for new data and more recent measurements, the current map has led to onerous flood insurance premiums being placed unnecessarily on local homeowners and businesses for more than 30 years, and Schumer said it is time these revisions be made in an up-to-date map. Schumer said that advancements in technology have allowed weather models to be more accurate in their predictions and therefore urged Administrator Fugate to have his department work with city officials to redraw the flood maps based on the LOMR conclusions. Schumer said this would provide residents and local businesses with more accurate estimates of regional flood zones and prevent from people being unnecessarily included when they need not be incorporated into the maps.
Schumer was joined by Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius; Fire Chief Bruce Heberer, who oversees code enforcement; City Engineer Chris Vose; David Goldstein, owner of the Johnstown Shopping Center; Alton Knapp of A.E. Knapp Associates; and Ron Peter, regional community planner.
“This is a major concern for Johnstown, for homeowners, and for business owners. It creates an unnecessary cost and it needs to be rectified,” said Mayor Michael Julius.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to FEMA appears below:
Dear Administrator Fugate:
I write to request that FEMA work with the City of Johnstown to coordinate efforts and ensure that the flood maps throughout the city are accurate; so that only those homeowners and businesses that actually face flood risk are required to purchase flood insurance and pay elevated premiums. It is my understanding that the flood maps for Johnstown and the surrounding areas were drawn in 1983; FEMA should work with the community to ensure that the appropriate engineering analysis is done to survey these areas and ultimately make any appropriate adjustments to conclude that the maps are accurate and up-to-date.
The City of Johnstown is concerned that residences and businesses in town, specifically areas located near the Cayudutta Creek, may currently be subject to flood elevation estimates that significantly overstate the flood risk in those areas. We must ensure that these areas are not needlessly located in the federally designated floodplain or considered at a greater flood risk than is appropriate. While those businesses and homes that are at risk of flood should be adequately protected and prepared, I know you share my desire to see that the flood maps reflect the most accurate data and do not subject property owners to flood risk estimates that may require them to purchase policies that are not necessary.
I urge FEMA to work with the community leaders in Johnstown to identify the best way to move forward to ensure that the city’s flood maps are accurate and reflect the most up to date topographic information from that area. I am aware of engineer analysis from a respected firm that has already been conducted on behalf of private business owners for a portion of this area, and I know that they have initiated a Letter of Map Revision request to FEMA to incorporate the conclusions of this analysis. The City of Johnstown is committed to ensuring that studies and analysis of local properties and waterways are completed to ensure that the federal flood maps are accurate and up to date. Therefore, I urge you to work with the community to ensure that FEMA is able to thoroughly evaluate the area and incorporate the conclusions of the engineering analysis into the flood maps in Johnstown where it is appropriate. Together both the City and FEMA should be able to conduct the analysis and reviews necessary to update the flood maps where necessary, so that any outdated or inaccurate sections of the flood map will be corrected as soon as possible.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator