Residents and business owners in flood-prone areas of Easton are facing a rising tide of higher insurance premiums, officials say.
"When this kicks in, boom!" said Dr. Roger Ruggles, chairman of Easton City Council's planning committee, Tuesday night.
Downtown Easton is the most flood-prone part of the city, a low-lying area at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers.
Becky Bradley, Easton's director of planning and codes, distributed an information packet to council members explaining which insurance buyers could be paying up to 25 percent a year more for several years, starting this year.
The increased premiums are the result of new rules contained in the 2012 Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act. The act's goal is to make the National Flood Insurance Program self-sufficient.
Secondary homes and business properties in designated Special Flood Hazard Areas will see 25 percent rate increases, according to the information Bradley handed out, as will properties that have experienced severe or repeated flooding.
Homeowners in Special Flood Hazard Areas can keep their subsidized rates until the property is sold; the policy is allowed to lapse; a new policy is purchased, or severe, repeated flood losses are suffered.
Subsidized rates will be phased out gradually, starting in 2014, and rates will increase by 20 percent each year for the next five years.
Ruggles said the city has already been re-mapped, and several areas of the city are now included in the flood plain.
That means many more property owners would be required to buy flood insurance if they have development plans.
"The 100-year flood plain is not a static thing," Ruggles noted.
Bradley said the city could consider joining the Community Rating System to lower premiums for residents.
"That could result in 5 percent savings, and may take the edge off that [annual] increase," she said.