CANNON BEACH — The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt new flood plain maps in Cannon Beach provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The new hazard maps have been long-awaited by many downtown business owners. The maps are used by insurers to price flood insurance and by cities and counties to identify flood-prone areas for regulatory purposes. They can also affect new development by requiring certain building standards.
Flood hazard zones will shrink by 27 percent, taking the majority of downtown out of the 100-year flood plain — an area with a 1 in 100 chance of flooding in any given year.
The maps, which will officially go into effect June 20, will take many businesses out of flood zones and likely reduce insurance costs.
The updates are the product of a countywide study that began in 2009 to incorporate the latest surveying technology. While new surveys have reflected these changes since 2016, efforts to adopt the new flood maps were stalled by concerns with the draft coastal analysis in the Columbia River estuary, as well as assessments of a levee in Warrenton.
Though the maps were adopted unanimously, City Councilor Nancy McCarthy raised questions about how it is possible for so much of downtown to be taken out of the flood hazard zone when the area has such a high water table at relatively low elevations.
“This does not protect you from all flooding. It protects you from a flooding event that has a 1 in 100 chance of happening in any given year,” City Planner Mark Barnes said. “It’s very narrow.”
City Councilor Mike Benefield added that the new maps now give homeowners and businesses a choice of whether or not they want to buy flood insurance, and if so, what kind, rather than being required to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.