Smith Canal residents have already indicated they’re willing to help pay for a $36 million flood-control gate to pull them out of a high-risk flood zone.
But until that gate is built — maybe five to seven years down the road — many homeowners are still going to be required to buy flood insurance. And it’s only going to get more expensive.
FEMA’s debt-laden National Flood Insurance Program is moving away from subsidized rates toward actuarial rates, meaning folks in these high-risk zones will have to pay higher rates phased in over time.
What everyone’s waiting for is exactly what those numbers will be.
John Maguire, head of San Joaquin County’s Flood Management Division, referred this week to FEMA literature suggesting that a home subject to a potential flood depth of 4 feet would see flood-insurance rates in the neighborhood of about $9,500 per year. That’s obviously a huge increase from the roughly $400 per year that folks with the subsided rates have been paying.
Many Smith Canal homes would, indeed, likely flood up to 4 feet, and some homes much more than that. Flood depths range from less than a foot toward the east end of the flood zone, to up to 10 feet deep in the west.
Folks living in areas where deeper floods are expected could well end up paying much more than $9,500 a year, though precise figures are still not released.
The good news is that FEMA has not yet established any timeline for phasing in those higher rates — at least, not for most homeowners. People who own secondary homes in the flood zone have already seen rates start to creep up, as have people whose homes have a history of flooding (that shouldn’t apply to folks in the Smith Canal area, which has never flooded).
Business owners, meanwhile, will see rates start to climb on Oct. 1. The new rates are to go up 25 percent per year until full actuarial rates are realized.
Of course, the gate itself will cost these residents too — about $160 per year, on average.
Bottom line: Until the project is finished, it’s going to be a double-whammy for folks in the Country Club area. And we don’t even have the full story yet.