Newport Beach has persuaded the Federal Emergency Management Agency to exclude about 2,700 properties in the coastal part of the city from updated flood maps.
That means owners in parts of the Balboa Peninsula, Balboa Island and West Newport won’t need pricey flood insurance, saving up to about $3,700 each, or $10 million combined, each year in premiums, the city estimates.
City staff worked on the rollback for two years, showing FEMA that municipal infrastructure such as seawalls and sand berms on the beach protected more of the waterfront and adjacent neighborhoods than the federal agency’s models predicted.
Initially, FEMA added more than 3,000 Newport Beach properties to expanded flood zones when it revised its maps in 2016, more than doubling the number of affected properties.
Staff reviewed Newport’s rebuttal analysis with the City Council last year and updated its progress in July, revealing that FEMA accepted revisions that knocked the total number of properties needing flood insurance from about 4,500 to about 1,800, a reduction of 60%.
The last flood insurance study before this one was done in the late 1980s. The difference is most visible on Balboa Island, all of which has been in a designated flood zone for decades.
The previous proposed version of the map showed the entire densely developed island awash in blue — or under some amount of water in the worst-case, 100-year flood scenario. Now, only about half the island’s roughly 1,400 properties remain in a flood hazard zone.
The city this year added nine-inch concrete caps to Balboa Island’s publicly maintained seawalls, which are about 80 to 90 years old, at a cost of about $1.8 million to get a few more years out of the barriers. A long-term plan shows the city building full new walls over several years starting in 2026.
The revised flood maps will become permanent in early 2019, and the city will waive its $99 fee for related mortgage holder forms for a year after the maps go into effect.
See the city’s findings and the maps before and after the changes at newportbeachca.gov/FEMA.