The Federal Emergency Management Agency will release Harris County’s preliminary flood insurance rate maps sometime in 2023, according to Harris County Flood Control District officials.

In a May 2021 Harris County Commissioners Court update, the HCFCD projected FEMA would release maps in the spring or summer of 2022, but has continually pushed back its estimate. FEMA officials could not confirm a release date.

Federal law requires FEMA to assess if flood maps need to be revised or updated at least every five years. Local flood control entities partner with FEMA to provide information for those maps, which show flood risk and mandate the purchase of flood insurance in high-risk areas.

HCFCD Planning Division Director Ataul Hannan said FEMA’s flood maps have not been updated countywide since 2007, but several of the areas comprising the maps have changed due to the completion of HCFCD projects.

Work on the countywide update began in 2019 with the advent of the Modeling, Assessment and Awareness Project, or MAAPnext, which is funded by FEMA grants and the $2.5 billion HCFCD bond passed in 2018. HCFCD Executive Director Tina Petersen said the project is helping produce different maps than what is available nationally from FEMA.

“What the residents will get [with MAAPnext] is comprehensive flood plain modeling as well as a suite of flood risk tools ... to inform their understanding of their risks,” Petersen said.

Hannan said MAAPnext uses updated rainfall and topographic data to create more comprehensive maps than the ones available during recent major storms. He said previous flood events, such as Hurricane Harvey, have shown more than 60% of the flooding was outside the flood plain.

“It’s not a regulatory map [designating] 100-year or 300-year [flood zones], but we are showing the local flooding [not] from an insurance point of view,” Hannan said.

Officials said MAAPnext’s dashboard will complement the release of FEMA’s maps. A process will then begin to revise the maps before they become official in late 2024 or 2025. Residents will have 90 days to comment on the maps early in that process, and communities will have to adopt or amend their flood plain management ordinances.