Location: Barnstable County, Massachusetts
Point of Contact: Shannon Jarbeau, CFM, CRS & Floodplain Management Coordinator, Cape Cod Cooperative Extension/Barnstable County, MA
Barnstable County, Massachusetts is the regional government that encompasses the communities located on Cape Cod. Within the county, just over 215,000 individuals reside within 15 small communities, many of which are flood prone (US Census Bureau, 2010; Barnstable County, 2016). In 2014, FEMA rolled out new Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Barnstable County using more accurate historical data and models. These new maps significantly expanded the flood hazard area in many of the county's communities, and subsequently required many residents to purchase flood insurance for the first time. At the same time, flood insurance rate increases associated with the passage of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act were being implemented. This led to substantial rate increases for many flood insurance policyholders. In response to these challenges, staff from the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension with Barnstable County sought to find a way to alleviate the rising cost of flood insurance. Staff found that helping communities to participate in the Community Rating System (CRS) program could be an effective solution to alleviating flood insurance costs, while providing additional benefits in the form of improved resilience.
As of 2014, only four of the 15 communities in the county were participating in the CRS. Encouraging other communities to join would require the help of an individual with expertise in the CRS and floodplain management. While there was broad support for the idea of hiring an individual to provide communities with the assistance that they needed to enroll in the CRS program, some believed a consultant could fill this role. That said, a community survey showed local government staff preferred to have an individual on hand to provide continuous support in the long term, as opposed to hiring a consultant that would leave once communities were enrolled in the CRS program. In addition, a cost benefit analysis completed by the county showed that if every community in Barnstable County reached a CRS Class 7, there would be an annual savings of $2.1 million. Taken together, these pieces of information helped create the buy-in necessary to hire a full-time employee for the purpose of furthering Cape Cod communities' participation in the CRS. This employee would be located at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, a county government entity that provides technical assistance and education on a wide variety of issues faced by Barnstable County residents.
Funding for starting this position came from two sources: 1. seed money from Woods Hole Sea Grant and 2. funding from Barnstable County. These entities essentially split the cost of creating and financing the position for the first two years. Prior to creating the position, a grant from the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Program to one Barnstable County community was used to complete a job aid that would support the work of the regional CRS coordinator. In the future, additional grants and alternative funding will be pursued so the county does not need to finance the full position internally.
Shannon Jarbeau was hired in 2015 as Barnstable County's regional CRS coordinator. One of the first challenges she faced was determining how to divide her time amongst the 15 communities in Barnstable County. Presently 50% of her time is spent assisting specific communities to implement the CRS and the other 50% of her time is spent supporting the CRS at the regional level by providing technical assistance on basic NFIP issues, coordinating efforts to earn credit for region wide activities, operating a CRS User Group and providing flood insurance assistance to residents. Presently towns that have upcoming cycle visits, larger towns that have the most to gain from the program, and towns that have expressed a lot of interest in participating or enhancing their participation in the CRS are given priority. Communities that are still working to meet the prerequisites of the program (e.g. ensuring elevation certificates are complete and accurate, creating hazard mitigation plans when necessary, etc.) or that are determining their level of interest in participating are generally a lower priority. Some of Shannon's primary duties include preparing CRS application materials and determining what activities to pursue to earn credit, supporting towns during Community Assistance Visits, assisting towns with preparing for CRS Verification Visits and annual reviews, and providing general floodplain management technical assistance.
Through the creation of her position, four communities that were already in the CRS have received technical support for advancing their programs. Three communities have been accepted into the CRS with 1 more acceptance anticipated by May 2017. Three additional communities have begun applications and the remaining communities have received information on and assistance with completing the prerequisites for joining the program. This is just one example of how communities are working together to extend their administrative capacity in order to find success in the CRS. This model could be adopted elsewhere in the country, especially in small communities facing similar challenges and are relatively close together in proximity.