Homeowners, renters and business owners in Orange County are encouraged to look over newly released preliminary flood maps in order to determine their flood risks and make informed decisions.

Orange County officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are presenting the preliminary maps to communities and unincorporated areas in order to help leaders and residents identify known flood risks and use the information to make decisions about buying flood insurance and how the community should move forward with any development.

Jerry Jones, Bridge City city manager, has been studying the new maps and is working to reduce the amount of property in the flood zone.

“There is substantially more areas in the flood zone with the new map,” Jones said.

Bridge City officials are going to appeal the way the map has been put together. They feel the map has changed dramatically because of the information used following Hurricane Ike in 2008. “That’s just not acceptable,” Jones said.

The storm is said to be an uncommon event which has not previously occurred in nearly 100 years. The historic storm left only 16 houses out of about 3,800 unaffected by the storm.

Residents in the recently added flood zones could see a significant rise in their flood insurance premiums. The last map was created in 1982. The terminology on the new map has changed and property located in what was known as A is now AE and is in the flood zone. Properties formerly located in the B zone were not in a flood zone before. Both B and C zones have been replaced with X. Those in the B zone may be in a flood zone with the new map.

In addition, newer houses built within the past 12 years are above the 9-foot required elevation. But, with the changes, this may not be enough.

According to Jones, citizens can request their property be removed from the flood zone.

Jones recommends if anyone has any doubt they should attend the public workshops.

The Texas-based coastal flood mapping effort follows the release of a new, comprehensive storm surge study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which gives updated information on coastal flood risks. To share the data, two public workshops have been scheduled  where interested citizens can obtain more information about the proposed changes.

The workshops will be held from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on January 15 and 16 at the Bridge City Community Center located at 105 Parkside in Bridge City.

“As we work together with our state and local partners to bring this critical information to the county, we ask that everyone review the maps to understand what flood risks are involved,” said FEMA R6 acting Regional Administrator Tony Robinson. “The role of the community as an active partner in the flood mapping process is very important.”

Additional information is available, including links to the interactive mapping website on www.txchart.com.Residents can also contact the Orange County Floodplain Administrator for more details.

Jerry Jones, Bridge City city manager, studies a map in an effort to reduce the amount of property in the floosd zones. RECORD PHOTO: Debby Schamber.