The public comment period which opened on June 19-20, 2018, ends on Sept. 16-18, 2018 for residents and business owners of Grand Lake O'Cherokees area including Ottawa, Craig, Delaware, and Mayes counties.

MIAMI – The clock is ticking on the comment period for the latest revision of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Map) maps for Ottawa County in the Grand Lake O' the Cherokees Watershed.

FEMA flood maps or Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) identify areas at risk for flooding by zones, the basis for flood insurance rates. The proposed re-mapping encompasses miles and miles, and acres and acres, of property in Ottawa County.

The Ottawa County maps went preliminary on Oct. 25, 2017, and the public comment period started on June 19-20, 2018, and ends on Sept. 16-18, 2018, dependent on the community involved, according to FEMA's Jonathan Colwell, Mitigation Communications and Outreach Coordinator.

“At the end of the Public Comment Period FEMA will review the data that was submitted and determine the path forward on resolving any comments that were received,” Colwell said.

Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps, Flood Insurance Reports, and the Digital Flood Insurance Databases have been made publically available on the FEMA Map Service Center at https://hazards.fema.gov/femaportal/prelimdownload/.

The Preliminary Flood Risk Data can also be viewed online at https://msc.fema.gov/fmcv.

“After the Public Comment Period is complete, the next step in the process is the Letter of Final Determination, which begins the six month adoption period," Colwell said.

The Letter of Final Determination is anticipated for the Spring of 2019, and after this date, the maps are considered “pending” and are still publically available for viewing on https://msc.fema.gov/fmcv.

Effective Maps, which are considered final, are anticipated to be released in the Summer of 2019.

“For all property owners, now is the best time to review the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps and to learn if there have been flood risk changes to their property,” Colwell said. “If there is a change of flood risk on a property, or if the owners currently do not have flood insurance, it is beneficial to speak with an insurance agent about financially protecting the property and any cost saving insurance options that might be available, such as the Newly Mapped Procedure. Even if there are no changes to the flood risk near the property, as shown on the new maps, it is a good time to review your current policy with your insurance agent to confirm your coverage.”

Property owners are responsible to find what potential flood risk affects their own property, no individual notification is made by FEMA.

Ottawa County is second highest in FEMA disaster claims in Oklahoma and re-mapping comes from post-reviews of disasters if there is need. FEMA's re-mapping process includes input, commentary, and use of resources from community stakeholders before the maps are finalized.

The cost for flood insurance for an $85,000 to $100,00 home would run from $800 to $1,300 a year, according to local insurance agencies.

Mortgagers often require flood insurance on flood zoned property, and Ottawa County property owners can see the devaluation of their property and homes when zoned in flood areas.

An example given by a local insurance agent is that on a $100,000 home put on the market with flood insurance costing approximately $100 a month, for that $100,000 home, with a monthly payment roughly $650, on a 20 year note compared to a $100,000 home that's outside the floodplain and the buyer does not have to buy flood insurance, it's basically decreasing the value of that home in the floodplain to about $85,000.

That’s about a 10 to 15 percent decrease in the higher risk zones if you throw in the cost of paying a flood insurance premium.

A land elevation study can be obtained by a landowner as one option to refute the zoning designation.

FIRM maps for Ottawa County were completed five to six years ago and new maps were to be implemented in 2018, encompassing more structures and properties. These newly mapped designations can affect the land use, building regulations, and insurance risks.

August 2016 versions were corrected incorporating hydrologic results into the hydrologic model. This resulted in water-surface elevation changes for the Neosho River and a revision of the mapped boundaries of the 1 and 0.2 percent-annual-chance events.

FEMA's re-map project began in September of 2011 with pre-discovery meetings, followed by the kickoff of Flood Risk Study meetings in 2013. In January of 2016, the results were shown at an initial Flood Risk Review meeting followed by a 60-day comment period. Based on that, a revised Flood Risk Review meeting in August 2016 incorporated more feedback.

At the community's request, FEMA included incorporated data in the revised version including bathymetry data, high water marks, survey data and cross sections, and hydrologic data to revise stream flows.

Asked how property owners may submit comment to FEMA regarding the FIRMS, FEMA's Region 6 External Affairs Robin Smith said, "They are to submit them to the local floodplain administrator, in writing. That person will put them all together and submit them to FEMA as well."

Contact a FEMA Map Specialist by telephone; toll-free, at 1-877-FEMA-MAP (1-877-336-2627) or by email at FEMAMapSpecialist@riskmapcds.com.

Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at mstotts@miaminewsrecord.com or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.