PENDER COUNTY — Flat land, at or slightly above sea level, a river and the Atlantic make Pender County particularly flood-prone. One out of every three residents in the county currently lives in a floodplain.
Pender County hired a floodplain administrator, Craig Harris, in September 2017. Harris hopes to catch residents up on flooding education efforts and perhaps most importantly, catch them a break on flood insurance.
RELATED: Carolina Beach homes being updated against floods after receiving long-awaited FEMA funding
Harris previously worked with Carolina Beach to bring the island town up to par on its floodplain management system.
He eventually helped the town achieve FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS) status, a rating that grants residents a 15 percent discount on flood insurance premiums.
Now, Pender County has begun the process that may result in increased flood preparedness and even a reduction in premiums.
Category 1 Matthew
Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016 and caused damage to an area where more than 18 percent of residents are below the poverty level.
According to Pender County’s Resilient Redevelopment Plan, the county identified steps it needed to take to address damage incurred by the storm.
Nearly 1,000 FEMA individual assistance claims and over 100 small business association claims were filed in Pender County as of March 2017, all related to the Category 1 hurricane.
After the storm, the county identified buildings in need of elevation or even acquisition.
1,200 buildings had a base floor elevation more than half-a-foot below FEMA’s regulatory requirement for flood-proofing structures.
Related: Neighbors helping those displaced by Hurricane Matthew to finally return home
In November, the county accepted proposals from businesses to enter into contracts to use FEMA funds to improve upon flood-damaged damaged homes. FEMA funding has previously administered funding to select homes in Carolina Beach as well as other at-risk areas.
Education and reduced premiums
It’s been over a year since, and on Jan. 16 Pender County’s Board of Commissioners will review Harris’ work to date.
He says his position was created with the long-term goal of achieving FEMA’s CRS status for the community. In early February, the county will be receiving a “pre-CRS audit” to prepare for an eventual rating.
“Here’s my guess,” Harris said. “They give you a laundry list of things you need to get done. I couldn’t begin to say how long that process would be.”
With the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) up in the air, pursuing premium reductions is a top priority.
The NFIP is set to expire Jan. 19 but the deadline may be extended for another 30 days. It was initially set to expire Sept. 30, was extended until Dec. 8, then extended again.
“It’s my intent to move as fast as possible,” he said.
FEMA looks at a particular community’s activities that could positively impact the safety of people living in the flood zone.
Harris says FEMA will ask, “Are you educating people?”
To obtain a CRS rating through FEMA, communities must take strides to increase education efforts and ultimately make flood regulations accessible.
“Ultimately it’s saying your particular community is at x level which means this risk and we award a discount accordingly,” Harris said.
Pender County’s Flood Insurance Rate Map was last updated in 2007, and Harris is in the process of creating an updated map which will be inclusive of new developments. The new maps are set to be released late this year or early 2019.
In the meantime, a flood preparedness website has already been created for Pender County residents. Public letters to flood-prone residents and a flood awareness citizen’s guide will roll out sometime this year.