Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Need More Information?

The release of new maps often results in many questions. Here are some potential resources for more information: 

How Do I Find My Property on the Existing or New Preliminary Flood Maps? – Current and preliminary flood maps can be found using the El Paso Map Change Viewer. Easy-to-follow instructions for using the viewer can be found here, and detailed instructions can be found in the El Paso Map Change Viewer Fact Sheet.


How Do the Preliminary Flood Maps Affect New Construction? – For unincorporated El Paso County, contact the Planning and Development Department at (915) 546-2015. For the City of El Paso, contact the Building and Development Permitting Division at (915) 212-1598. [feel free to put specific contact info here in place of the above]


How Do the Preliminary Flood Maps Affect My Flood Insurance Requirement and Cost? – Contact your insurance agent and visit You can also review these fact sheets:


How Do I Find Out More about Flood Insurance? – Contact your insurance agent and visit You can review the information in the following fact sheets:

Another resource to answer questions about flood mapping and flood insurance requirements is the FEMA Map Information eXchange (FMIX) Customer Care Center. They can be reached at (877) FEMA MAP (1-877-336-2627) from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

For information within the City of El Paso limits, click here.

For information within other municipalities, please contact the following:

Learn More About the El Paso Mapping Process

Updating El Paso’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) and Flood Insurance Study (FIS) has been a multi-year, multi-phase effort. FEMA has worked with communities and property owners at all steps of the process to incorporate the best data available. The flood maps are developed using sound science generated by engineering experts, and FEMA always reviews and considers additional, validated flood hazard information from property owners and communities. As part of this collaborative process, a community or individual can review, appeal, and contribute to the development of a flood map before the community officially adopts the map.

The figure below highlights several of the phases. To learn more about the different phases of flood mapping, refer to the infographic What Goes Into A Flood Map? or visit here. To learn more about the history of the El Paso mapping study, download and read the project fact sheet English / Spanish

El Paso’s preliminary flood maps became available for public review on July 20, 2020. The next step is for FEMA to start an official 90-day public review and comment period. After publishing an announcement in the Federal Register, FEMA will publish two announcements about the review and comment period (about 10 days apart) in local newspapers. The public comment period will start when the second announcement is published.

During the 90 days, anyone can file a scientific or technical appeal or comment through their community. Please visit this webpage for more details. Once FEMA has reviewed and resolved all appeals and comments it receives from El Paso, it will finalize the flood map and study and issue a Letter of Final Determination (LFD). Communities have 6 months from the date of the LFD to ensure that their floodplain management ordinances recognize the new FIRM and FIS. During this time, residents and business owners whose flood risk is increasing should get a flood insurance policy in place to take advantage of the cost-saving insurance rating options that may not be available once the new flood maps are effective. Visit this webpage for more details on impacts on flood insurance.

Options If You Disagree with the Preliminary Flood Maps

When a preliminary flood map is issued and you disagree with the new flood risk identified for your property, you have two ways to try to amend it.

Appeal or Comment This option involves a formal process that occurs after the preliminary flood maps are released, but before the final ones are issued (shown below as the 90-day Public Review-Appeal and Comment Period); or

Letter of Map Change A property owner can submit information to request a property-specific Letter of Map Change (LOMC). If it is approved, the LOMC will officially change the building’s flood risk from high to moderate or low. This typically reduces the cost of flood insurance. This opportunity occurs at any time after the new flood map becomes effective.

These two processes are described below.

Appeals and Letters of Map Change


When a preliminary flood map becomes available, some residents, business owners, developers and others may disagree with the flood risk shown in certain areas. FEMA provides a 90-day appeal and comment period for new or revised Base Flood Elevations (BFEs), flood hazard zones, and/or floodway boundaries. Members of the community have opportunities to submit evidence on why they believe their property has been improperly mapped. However, the evidence must be scientifically or technically based. Even if “it hasn’t flooded in a while (or ever),” technical analysis can show that the risk exists. 

During the 90-day appeal and comment period, you can submit:

        An appeal – which is a formal written objection to a new or modified BFE, Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), floodway, or flood zone This must be supported by an analysis or scientific evidence showing that the information on the preliminary map is scientifically or technically incorrect.

        A comment – which points out changes needed for any other information related to the new map (such as a street name or jurisdictional boundary). 

After the appeal period, FEMA will evaluate the data and/or analysis in the appeals and comments provided during the 90-day period. Once all appeals are resolved, FEMA will send an appeal resolution letter to the community and all appellants and revise the preliminary FIRM as appropriate. After that, FEMA will finalize the flood map and send a Letter of Final Determination to each community, stating that the map will become effective in 6 months.

For more details on filing an appeal or comment, visit these resources:


Due to scale limitations, a preliminary map may inadvertently show a building (or part of it) within a high-risk flood zone (a Special Flood Hazard Area, or SFHA). When the new maps become effective, property owners may submit mapping and survey information to FEMA to request a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or a Letter of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F). The more precise details you provide may allow FEMA to officially change the building’s flood zone from an SFHA to Zone X, a moderate- to low-risk flood zone. 

While this process may also remove the federal mandatory purchase requirement for flood insurance when the map becomes effective – and your lender may no longer require flood insurance – it does not mean the risk of flooding has been removed; it is only reduced. You are strongly encouraged to continue to carry flood insurance using the lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy. More than 40% of flood claims in Texas come from policyholders in moderate- to low-risk flood zones. 

For more information on LOMAs and LOMR-Fs, visit these resources:

Potential Impacts of Map Changes on Flood Insurance and Options

When flood maps are updated, some residents and business owners may find that their property’s flood risk is higher or lower than before. Others may see no change. Some may now be required to carry flood insurance, while others will no longer have to. If you find that your flood risk has changed, it is important to know how that change may affect your requirement for and cost of flood insurance. Check the different scenarios below, which include your options for reducing any financial impacts. You can also download a summary fact sheet here.

If your home or business is newly identified as being in a high-risk flood area, most lenders must require you to carry flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offers a cost-saving flood insurance rating option called the Newly Mapped Procedure English / Spanish. Read this fact sheet English / Spanish for more details.

With this option, property owners who buy a policy within the first 12 months after a new map becomes effective are eligible for the lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy (PRP). Rates will then go up no more than 18% each year until they reach a standard Zone X rate, or the rate based on the new flood map, whichever is cheaper.

If the flood risk is increasing and your property will have a higher Base Flood Elevation (BFE), the NFIP offers a cost-saving flood insurance rating option know as Grandfathering. Grandfathering allows property owners to “lock in” the lower risk flood zone or BFE for future rating.

The NFIP grandfathering rule allows policyholders who have a policy in effect before the new maps become effective or have built-in compliance with the flood map in effect at the time of construction to keep their previous flood zone or BFE to calculate their insurance rate. This can result in significant savings. 

If your property’s flood risk is changing from a high-risk area (Zone A) to a moderate- or low-risk area (Zone X), the federal requirement to carry flood insurance by lenders is removed; however, the flood risk is not…it is just reduced. About 25% of NFIP flood claims in the U.S. are from policyholders in the lower-risk Zone X. 

The reduction in flood risk typically means flood insurance will be cheaper when the maps become effective. Residents and business owners are strongly encouraged to ask their insurance agent to convert their more expensive high-risk policy to the lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy and maintain coverage. No additional money is needed up front, and you will get a refund for the cost difference. 

While map changes will affect some property owners, many residents and business owners are not affected. However, this is a good time to review your flood insurance coverage with your insurance agent. Most homeowner policies do NOT cover damage due to flooding. When the new maps go into effect, your property may be closer to a high-risk area than before. More than 40% of NFIP flood claims in Texas are from policyholders in Zone X. 

If you have a flood insurance policy, talk with your insurance agent to see if you are fully insured to receive replacement cost for your home and that you have contents coverage. If you don’t have flood insurance, you may qualify for the lower-cost Preferred Risk Policy, which automatically includes contents coverage.

Identify Your Flood Risk

Flood risks change over time. Water flow and drainage patterns can change dramatically due to environmental changes, land use, and other forces. Consequently, the likelihood of flooding can also change. However, older flood hazard maps may not reflect these changes. Based on new digital mapping techniques, detailed, reliable, and current information on county and local community flood hazards is now available on updated flood hazard maps. These new preliminary flood maps present a better picture of areas most likely to be affected by flooding and provide a better foundation for making important building, land use, and flood insurance decisions.

Property owners need to know how the flood risk for their property may have changed. FEMA provides a mapping tool specifically for this mapping project, known as the El Paso Map Change Viewer, that will show which areas on the new preliminary flood map have increased in flood risk and which ones have decreased. The following are simplified instructions for using the Viewer; for more detailed instructions, download the El Paso Map Change Viewer Fact Sheet.

Follow the steps below to review flood changes in your area. This tool functions best in Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Apple Safari browsers on your computer. 

Step 1. To launch the interactive tool, enter into your browser. Users will be greeted with a disclaimer window. Click OK . The default view is the Comparison Layer. 

Step 2. At the top left-hand corner of the viewer, users can enter a location, address or latitude/longitude point, and the viewer will zoom to your location of interest. Once the tool identifies the address or location entered by the user, it will load the preliminary flood hazard information. If the address pin (black dot) is in a red or green shaded area, the property address is included in an area where the flood data has been updated/changed. 

Step 3. Please take a moment to select the Preliminary data set from the layer list to review your property once more. If the property is within a teal polygon, it is in a high-risk flood hazard area. If the property address is in a grey-shaded area, its flood risk is moderate. The layer list button also offers a chance to review the current effective flood map.

For other features that may enhance your experience, please download and read the El Paso Map Change Viewer Fact Sheet.