Maryland submitted a Business Plan for Map Modernization to FEMA outlining the State’s vision for modernization of the State’s flood studies and maps in 17 Maryland counties. This effort has been in the Wetlands and Waterways Program, Water and Science Administration of MDE because of close coordination needed with the Program’s floodplain permitting functions. FEMA accepted the plan and funded the effort under a Cooperative Technical Partnership with MDE.
The average age of the flood maps in Maryland was 18 years, and most of the studies were conducted in the late 1970's to the mid 1980's. Many of the older studies did not depict current conditions nor accurately estimate risk in terms of flood heights. Almost all flood maps were paper maps. The goal has been to produce D-FIRMS - completely digital products to allow different layers to be overlain in a Geographic Information System (GIS). Each county would have continuous coverage (towns would be part of the county coverage), eliminating the problems associated with annexations.
Because of much better technology available today to increase the accuracy of flood maps, studies needed to be revised. Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) technology supporting 2-foot contour mapping essential for accurate mapping of the coastal flood zones to correctly show the risk of flooding. It also allows more accurate hydrologic modeling of rainfall and the use of automated hydrology and hydraulic techniques to improve riverine floodplain analysis to develop new studies. Automated studies can be used on approximate flood zones that had no flood elevations. This technology generates 100-year flood elevations, as well as better floodplain lines, to meet FEMA's and the State's needs.
An important aspect of Map Modernization to the citizens of Maryland has been better estimation of the risk of flooding and more accurate determination of who needs flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Whenever maps are revised, based on better floodplain determinations, some property will move into the floodplain, while other property will be moved out of it. The ultimate objective, however, is to more accurately estimate the risk to all property. Flood maps are used by lenders, insurance agents, realtors, local officials, and property owners to determine flood risk and if flood insurance from the NFIP is required. All federally insured and regulated lenders must require flood insurance to secure any loans that they make on structures that are in the 100-year floodplain. The premiums for flood insurance policies are the responsibility of the homeowner, usually held in escrow by the lender. Anyone in a participating community can purchase flood insurance, if they wish. In Maryland, 116 communities participate in the NFIP, which is virtually all communities with land use authority, except for a few small towns.
MDE has received funding to complete the flood studies and develop the D-FIRMs. Anne Arundel and Howard Counties and the lower half of the Eastern Shore, where LiDAR data was already available, were selected for the early effort. Once procedures were developed, work has continued to complete the remaining (15) counties outlined in the Business Plan, as LiDAR becomes available for them.