Portland, Maine, officials are mounting a political effort to fend off a proposed new flood zone map for the city's coastline. Under the new map, most of the city's developed waterfront would change from an "A" zone to a "V," or "velocity," zone. By implication, that would mean a drastic change in the kind of development and construction allowed along the waterfront, and in the type of repair or rebuilding that would be allowed (or paid for by insurance) in the event of any flood damage in future storms. The Portland Press Herald story (" FEMA threatens harbor construction," by Tom Bell) quotes Penny St. Louis Littell, the city's planning director: "We will be left with dilapidated, continually decaying structures and a waterfront where nobody can rebuild." The Herald has also posted a simplified map of the newly determined flood zone. Flood zone maps are tied to insurance premium rates for flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which offers virtually the only insurance coverage available for flood damage. Federal regulations established for the NFIP allow coverage only for properties in communities where development and code regulations meet federal standards — meaning limitations on construction, along with strict codes that require flood-resistant building details. Littell argues that the NFIP regulations are unsuited to an urban waterfront like Portland's, and were originally intended to apply to other types of geography. "We are not a community of mega-mansions on sand dunes that will be washed away in a coastal storm," Littell told the Press Herald. But a FEMA official counters that the agency's job is just to evaluate what the water might do, not to consider the economic implications of any particular characteristics of the map. Said David Mendelsohn, "Our job is to map risk and identify that risk and put it on the map as best we can." Congress has tasked FEMA with a comprehensive upgrade of outdated flood zone maps around the nation, using advanced surveying and mapping technology. But with limited funding available, the job is proceeding in a piecemeal fashion. For more information on FEMA's reworking of the flood maps, check out this FEMA web page.