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San Francisco Bay Area Coastal Study Releases Draft Works for Marin and San Francisco Counties
Kris May, BakerAECOM
The San Francisco Bay Area Coastal Study is progressing through the coastal analysis and floodplain mapping stages for all nine Bay Area counties. Marin and San Francisco Counties were the first counties to receive completed draft work maps of the revised coastal panels for review.  The draft work maps were presented to Marin County at a Flood Study Review Meeting on January 17, 2013 and to San Francisco at the Flood Study Review Meeting on May 7, 2013. This article highlights the many ways in which FEMA is making draft work maps and data available to community officials and interested stakeholders as early as possible, in an effort to increase community engagement and enhance the local understanding of coastal flood risks.
In Marin County, the draft work maps were unveiled using an innovative Flood Risk Review and Commenting Tool (Tool) which allowed the community officials to review and comment on the digital work maps within a secure online environment.  The goal of the Tool is to collect community comments that will improve both the accuracy and quality of the next map phase – the development and distribution of Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).  The Tool is built upon an ESRI (geographic information systems mapping software) platform, which allows the draft work maps to be viewed in tandem with a variety of base maps, including satellite imagery, roads & highways, shaded relief, or U.S. topographic base.  The Tool is hosted within the county-specific webpage of the website, and community officials are provided unique logins that allow them to view and comment on the draft work maps from any PC or Mac computer, and from any location.  No software or mapping data needs to be downloaded and installed to use and access the Tool.
The digital review format allows the maps to be reviewed at a high-level of detail – including at the individual property level if desired – which is well beyond the current review capabilities that more traditional paper work maps can provide.  The Tool also provides a Changes Since Last FIRM layer, which allows reviewers to quickly view the difference between the new draft work maps and the previous effective FIRM.  This functionality was added based on a specific request from Marin County at the January Flood Risk Review meeting.
The Tool was originally developed to ease the review burden of the counties and communities by providing an interactive and flexible environment to review the draft work maps.  The Tool also facilitates the collection of comments, and allows for the synthesis of comments from multiple reviewers within a single spatial environment.  Marin County was the pilot county for the Tool, with San Francisco County following close behind. FEMA is currently revising and updating the functionality and capability of the Tool based on user submitted feedback and lessons learned from the initial two launches.  It is anticipated the Tool will be used for the remaining seven Bay Area counties, as well as all 15 Open Pacific Coast counties, as the draft work maps and Flood Risk Review meetings are completed.
Although the Tool is currently only available to county and community officials and select stakeholders designated by each respective county, the release of the draft work maps in Marin County sparked intense interest by other interested stakeholders and community members throughout the region who wished to view the draft work maps for a variety of purposes.  To meet this need, FEMA created Google-Earth based files of the draft work maps and made these files available on the website.  The Google-Earth based files are freely accessible and viewable by anyone.  The primary difference between the Tool and the Google-Earth based file is the commenting ability, as no comment capturing function is provided with the Google-Earth based files.  Although the draft work maps are only made available within the Tool for a 30-day comment period, the Google-Earth based files will remain available on the website until the release of the Preliminary FIRMs.
FEMA is currently exploring other ways to host and disseminate the draft work maps and data in order to increase its accessibility.  FEMA encourages the use of this data as best available data for a given community.  These draft work maps represent the first update to the Bay coastal panels in three decades, and they can enhance a communities understanding of current coastal flood risks.  However, it should also be noted that the work maps are posted in draft form, and it is reasonable to expect that changes will arise as the mapping team reviews comments received on the draft work maps, and as the study progresses through the Preliminary Map Production process.

 Coastal Beat Story Archive

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