Woodbridge and northwest Lodi residents faced with spending as much as $1,400 annually for flood insurance are full of questions about costs and why the area is suddenly considered a flood plain risk.
The new designation proposed for Woodbridge and northwest Lodi has generated about 30 calls from concerned property owners, said Kevin Dejong, a broker with Lodi 1st Insurance Co.
Tonight in Woodbridge, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency along with state and San Joaquin County representatives will answer questions at a community meeting.
Meanwhile, officials from FEMA, the California State Insurance Commissioner's office and Lodi 1st Insurance Agency answered questions from the News-Sentinel on Wednesday about flood control insurance and what it will mean to the average property owner.
Q: Why are Woodbridge and northwest Lodi faced with stiff flood insurance premiums a year from now?
A: Congress required FEMA in 2002 to convert its maps from paper to digital. That made it a lot easier to tell which areas are a flood risk, including all of Woodbridge and northwest Lodi - generally west of Lodi Lake and north of White Oak Way, FEMA spokesman Frank Mansell said.
Another reason is that the levee on the south bank of the Mokelumne River in the Woodbridge area hasn't been certified either by a licensed professional engineer or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Q: Why is purchasing flood insurance mandatory in high-risk areas?
A: "Floods are the costliest natural disaster in the United States, and there's a propensity for people to live near rivers," Mansell said.
Flooding damages sheet rock, air conditioners, water heaters and electrical systems, he said. Wood can warp, and mold cleanup can be required.
Q: Does everyone within the proposed flood zone need to buy insurance once the map is finalized, about a year from now?
A: Yes, if you are paying a mortgage to a bank insured by the federal government. If your home is paid off, you don't have to buy flood insurance.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Lodi Elks Lodge, 19071 N. Lower Sacramento Road. The community is invited.
Those in attendance will include John Bartlett, a FEMA flood planner; Jana Critchfield, a FEMA insurance specialist; Steve Winkler, San Joaquin County deputy public works director; and representatives for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, State Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, and Assemblyman Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi.
Source: Woodbridge Municipal Advisory Council.
Q: Where can you get flood insurance?
A: Check with your insurance agency to see if it sells flood insurance.
Q: Can you shop around for the best deal?
A: No, because FEMA has locked in the insurance rates. You will not save money if you have other policies, such as auto and homeowners insurance, with the same company, said Tammy Frazier, an insurance agent for Lodi 1st Insurance Agency. Flood-control insurance will be a separate policy not packaged with other forms of insurance.
Q: Can you save money by purchasing flood insurance before FEMA approves the final flood map?
A: Yes. By purchasing insurance before the map is approved, you would pay the low-risk premium, which is $317 per year for a $250,000 house containing $100,000 worth of contents.
But if you wait until after FEMA officially revises its flood designation labeling the Woodbridge/northwest Lodi area as high risk, premiums will cost you $1,390 for the same building and $856 for the contents.
If you already carry the flood insurance before FEMA changes its map, your $317 annual premium will go up to $769 annually for the building, which is required by the federal government, and an optional $482 to cover contents.
Q: What if you buy flood insurance this year thinking you will be in the high-risk flood plain, but FEMA ends up removing the Woodbridge area from the high-risk designation? Can you get your money back?
A: No. You can either cancel your insurance or continue purchasing it at the $317 rate, according to Mansell.
Q: What if you live near the proposed flood plain, but not quite in it?
A: "Twenty to 25 percent of the claims paid to flood insurance don't live in a high-risk zone," Mansell said. "What it says is that mother nature doesn't read flood maps."
Mansell noted the recent flooding in Fernley, Nev., where 600 homes were flooded out. Fernley is considered a low-risk zone, he said.
Q: What if your house is worth more than $250,000? Can you be covered for the additional value of your house?
A: Yes, you can purchase from the "excess flood program," which is a separate policy, Dejong said. He doesn't know how much the extra premium would cost because each piece of property is different.
Q: How can you tell if your property is within the proposed flood plain zone?
A: Visit http://www.floodsmart.gov (National Flood Insurance Program). Type in your address, and you will find out whether you're in a low-, moderateor high-risk zone. You may also call FEMA at (800) 638-6620.