Who you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

I’m going back and forth with a surveyor friend of mine – he says that FEMA has dropped my property, and anyone else’s who lives on the waterfront , a full foot-and-a-half closer to sea level. I don’t dispute that FEMA’s done that, nor that it will wreak havoc on shoreline property values and insurance costs, but I certainly don’t think that this is anything but a political move, designed to satisfy global warmists and their agenda. I have lived on Ole’s Creek for three decades, and have played/boated along it since my grandmother Leatrice Joy bought her – now Pal Nancy’s – house in 1957. I’ve seen waters rise during hurricanes and Nor’Easters, I’ve observed how high the water has come up to and over docks during that period and the flood level today is no higher than it was six decades ago. It’s complete bullshit, but in these times, that’s of no matter.


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31 responses to “Who you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

  1. Island Surveyor

    In all fairness, your surveyor buddy forgot to mention that FEMA changed your insurance rating a even foot in your favor, so it’s really 0.1 feet closer to the hazard level, which is an inch and a quarter.

    But that is the official sea-level rise from 1999 to 2010 in Fairfield County.

    Yes, the glaciers are melting, and high-tide will bring that same water up your creek.

  2. Island Surveyor

    And over your floor at elevation 12.9 ft above sea level, which you thought was 14.0 just a few days ago.

    Good news – you now have beach-front real estate.

    So will Arizona, soon.

  3. KC

    What are the consequences of this? It’s hard and expensive to get flood insurance down here but I think most people can get it, if they can afford it. I have to plead ignorance as to how FEMA and flood insurance work (I know more than I did before Katrina but that still isn’t much) but some insurance company still sends me my bloated flood insurance bill every year and I got no flood insurance payments after Katrina. I pay it but I’m not really sure if I should. (It was determined that the water in my house in 2005 was wind and rain and not actually flood. Go figure. But I had an official letter stating that I had not flooded. I guess that’s worth something.) Are you still insurable for flood? Some people have moved their houses or built higher but I don’t know how much difference that really makes. Build a levee in front of your house, you’ll be okay then.

  4. Walt

    Dude –
    So as far as I can tell, this global warming stuff is good for opportunists like you and me, right? You are a “professional real estate agent” and a lawyer, right? So you make a living feeding off of those in trouble, right? So we buy land, cheap, 500 yards from shore. If Island Surveyor is right, in a few years we have waterfront, and we cash out. Plus we can do it with leverage (other peoples money!!! I love that!!) and really clean up.
    What I struggle with on this whole global warming thing though, is that it hasn’t been warm since last year. It’s so cold today, the 5 Filly’s pissed ice cubes. So what do you think?
    Your Pal,

  5. island surveyor

    CF’s rants are against FEMA’s control of building codes, insistence on flood insurance by all federally insured lenders, and the incredible overlay of bureaucrats.

    In reality, it is all handled by one consulting firm in VA. Nice work if you can get it.

    Anyone can apply for flood insurance, if the community participates and it complies with FEMA codes. The insurance rate or rating of your property is the issue. That is determined by the FIRM’s – the Flood insurance rate maps. They are updated about once a decade.

    It’s not only a government boondoggle, but a big insurance business scam. (Scam since most of it is not based on reality. That’s where the surveyor’s role comes in, and why you should hire one.)

    Continue on, CF, if you please…

  6. Chimney


    I’ve been thinking exactly what you said about the water level- having lived in the same area- Chimney Cove- for 57 years, I don’t see 1 inch of difference, and during the past thirty years, my flood insurance has gone from $300 to $1500, probably to pay for rebuilding a city built below sea level that everyone knows will happen again. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens after a big one like hurricane Carol in ’54 comes again with all the building that has taken place on the entire east coast.
    All that water from the melting ice caps must be going into Nancy Pelosi’s martinis.

  7. Palmers Lane

    I asked once before, where does Ole’s Creek end, what are the boundaries? I can not find the answer elsewhere.
    How will the new standards specifically affect your land values? Does it mean that the land is unbuildable to a certain extent? Does FEMA refuse permission at a certain level?
    Can you explain to the morbidly curious section of your readership? Please enlighten.

    • christopherfountain

      Ole’s (Longmeadow Creek, officially) ends, I’d say, where it passes under the West End Avenue bridge on its way to Binney Park. It ends, in this boater’s opinion, right round Rick Lanneman’s place on Willowmere Circle, where it meets Old Greenwich Cove. That’s not scientific, just a by guess and by golly calculation.

    • christopherfountain

      I’ll get to FEMA standards soon – this week, I hope. It’s complicated, but no, most land should still; be buildable, albeit at greater cost.

  8. foobar

    flood insurance is a taxpayer subsidy for people who live on the water. I hope the rates skyrocket, you deserve it.

    • christopherfountain

      Federal flood insurance is indeed a subsidy by one group of taxpayers to another and it’s wrong – explain to me why anyone else should subsidize a billionaire’s home on Hampton beachfront, or why we should pay to rebuild towns on Mississippi floodplains, just to watch them knocked down like so many bowling pins during the next flood. If a private insurer won’t take a risk on your home’s location, neither should taxpayers. (My own home is 18′ above sea level, since you ask).

  9. pulled up in OG

    Any chance silt build-up in the inlet over the years masks water level rise?

    • christopherfountain

      All I know is that my house hasn’t gone anywhere in since 1957, nor have the neighbors’ fixed docks, yet the water rises to the same level during storms, and no further.

  10. Cos Cobber

    Island Surveyor, please carry on, I’m curious why you consider FEMA insurance a scam. thanks

  11. island surveyor

    There are a host of problems with the flood insurance system, which one hopes will be clearly explained here in the coming months, since the Town must amend and enforce its Flood Hazard Overlay Zone to FEMA’s new system by June 18.

    I used the word scam with regard the business insurance angle facing homeowners.

    Scam number 1 – wind damage and falling water are not covered, only water rising from below.

    Reason: Storm flooding is a wind driven (or low atmospheric pressure induced, i.e. storm-induced tidal flooding) surge phenomenon. Therefore, it is often impossible to separate the two features of storm damage.

    Scam number 2 – the business is not a business when you need it to be.

    Reason: FEMA Flood Insurance Program (FIP) is a combine of big business (Aetna, etc), a scientific technical agency, and a government relief program, all rolled together (And Brownie does one heck-of-a-job.) Just when you need it to be one thing, it’s the other. So if you are buying insurance for your car or home, there are certain reasonable choice factors you weigh as a business decision depending on your risk aversion. Not so with FIP.

    Scam number 3 – Poorly executed risk assessment.

    Reason: FEMA rushed its mapping program based on political necessity in the 1970’s, rather than scientifically accurate risk mapping. Flood profiles were literally first calculated with slide rules from crude topo maps. Here in 2010 we are getting modernized maps based on 2006 aerial radar topo.

    So for some examples which I brought to the attention of Rep. Shays during the post-Katrina hearings without response:

    A) the Base Flood Hazard Elevation of coastal Belle Haven is set at 20 feet above sea level
    B) the Mississippi Gulf coast was rated a hazard up to elevation 12
    C) the SuperDome in New Orleans was rated a hazard at elevation 2.5 over sea level.

    Clearly the actual hazard is proportional to lower elevation and storm intensity. It is not geo-physically possible for Greenwich to experience a category 5 hurricane. And it is not remotely reasonable to compare the risk of a Belle Haven house at 20 with the SuperDome at 2.5, unless you assume as FEMA did that the Army Corp protection of New Orleans would not fail.

    Tomorrow night, the Greenwich P & Z will at the end of their agenda deal with the FEMA regulatory issues affecting the site plan of the Cos Cob Power Plant. Private interests are caught in the jaws of conflict between the Army Corp, the NY & CT environmental agencies which control the Sound jointly, and FEMA. When the Town has to act as a landowner, it too gets chewed up and spit out.

    Kindda fun to watch. Carry on CF. Do we really need the MLS web open to keep things interesting here?

    BTW – erosion and siltation are filling your creek with soil faster than AGW is filling it with water. So you are both further from boating water and higher at risk all at the same time. If Ole were starting over with his boat business, do you think he would pick the same location? That brings me to the Water Dependent Business Zone – the real P&Z waahoo.

  12. Anonymous

    even without fema’s medling, some firms in the private insurance market have decided to reduce their exposure. amica, for one, has decided that it won’t write homeowners’ ins. within 2600 feet of the ocean, and they consider greenwich cove to be ‘ocean’ and hence won’t write new policies for much of old greenwich [unless we put in watertight storm shutters on all first floor windows and doors]. nor would allstate write for my o.g. home.

  13. Cos Cobber

    Island Surveyor, great post. Keep it going. I find this stuff interesting.

    In Cos Cob, I live at the edge of the 100yr coastal flood zone. Actually, the edge of the zone meets my property where my driveway meets the street. the lowest level in my house (the bottom of the basement) is a good 8-10 ft above the street and the flood zone (yes, its a sloping lot). FEMA flood insurance costs less than $400 for my site. Do you think its wise to carry the insurance or a complete waste? I know, its probably impossible to say without sharing my address….

    In light of your posts about highwater marks over the past 50 years, it sounds like I am unlikely to encounter a flood problem. In fact, my own assessment is that it would have to be a hurricane generating Katrina like rains which seems very remote at best. I have been toying with dropping coverage.

  14. Anonymous

    State Farm seems to have a one-mile setback in CT.

    In Florida, they set back all the way to Georgia.

    Gov. Christ said “Good riddance” as his official Florida response.

  15. Island Surveyor

    That is a “business decision,” which you as an owner with no lien-holder can make.

    It’s somewhat similar to dropping collision coverage on your car, once you’ve paid off the car loan.

    You might talk to your Glenville-Pemberwick neighbors about FEMA as an insurance carrier after the April 15, 2007 storm.

    After the Dec 1992 Nor’easter, the maximum FEMA payout was about $ 175,000 for families whose homes were knocked off their foundations by tidal flooding, and condemned.

    Multiply your premium by 100 years, and then choose to insure after you know the maximum payout under the policy.

  16. Cos Cobber

    thanks for your thoughts IS.

  17. KC

    Remember CC, as Island Surveyor pointed out and I found out; wind and rain damage is not considered flood damage, hard as it is to separate the two afterwards. However, our homeowner’s paid a little for the water which was ostensibly from above, not from below. And, yes, Surveyor thanks for the insights about flood insurance. At least, I know something more about it.

  18. Island Surveyor

    We hope CF will have to twiddle his thumbs a bit longer waiting for the high-end melt-down, and will turn his attention to the practical aspects of dealing with FEMA and lender/legal issues pertinent thereto.

    Item 1 – get a surveyor to help you. This guy is available: http://tinyurl.com/ylshu88

    Item 2 – understand the interaction of CAM regs and FEMA regs on your site.

    Item 3 – respect the power of the sea and the atmosphere. They work together, but not necessarily in your favor.

    FEMA has finally done our county the favor of giving us better maps – but with it an expanded flood hazard zone.

  19. Island Surveyor

    And while we are waiting, enjoy this:

  20. shoeless

    When I was living in Stamford, there had been a small creek that ran directly under my house prior to the land being developed. The develpoer re-routed the creek to the back of the property and wrapped it around the side of the house, dividing my property with my neighbor.

    My neighbor, who was at a lower elevation than I was, utilized two pumps (almost constantly) to expunge water that built up under his foundation.
    I, on the other hand, had no such problem and never encountered water in my basement in the 10 years I lived there. Guess who was required by FEMA to have flood insurance?

    Yup. I was. Becuase in the 100-year water measurements, my house’s location had water in it by the nature of the original stream. No real effort by FEMA to figure out who is in jeopardy, just a way to pay for places like Florida, much the way Fairfield county pays for the rest of CT.

  21. Island Surveyor

    This blog is not going to change the system, but I hope it will draw forth a variety of anecdotal tales of what we’re up against.

    It bugs me that FEMA will not release the new system to any private parties before the implementation date. We are in the dark.

    So much for emergency planning…

  22. Island Surveyor

    To the Town’s credit, their new April 2008 GIS topo is accurate and in the same system as the new 2006 FEMA radar topo, although with a different mapping technology.

    Now if they would only add CAM zone status to the GIS, along with the new FEMA hazard mapping, then realtors and homeowners would have a chance to figure it all out.

  23. Cos Cobber

    thanks KC, yes I am well aware of the distinction between wind driven rain and actual flooding. thanks though.

    IS, i’ll be calling you….when the floods come in….

  24. Island Surveyor

    Too late, then.

    That why I am “Island Surveyor.” Hoping to relocate to DR along the Haitian border to start my “Reforest Haiti” initiative soon. That web site is already taken, and they claim to have planted 1000 trees already. But my crew used to do 4000 trees/day around the B’port Reservoirs. The Greenwich Water Co never bought into that program. Too bad.

    Sorry I was not introduced to you personally by our host and moderator.

    I never bought the first glass last week, so didn’t benefit from your largess on the refill.

  25. shoeless

    If I don’t have a mortgage, am I required to have FEMA flood insurance if I’m technically in a flood plain? I know the bank requires it, but what if I own the deed?

    • christopherfountain

      No, and don’t buy it. 35′ above sea level ain’t gonna flood, whatever the IPCC says.

  26. Island Surveyor

    A river flooding system brings stormwater down from higher in the watershed. You need a surveyor to help you evaluate the actual risk hazard in a riverine flood plain.

    Call this guy: http://tinyurl.com/ylshu88