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Frequently Asked Questions: Tropical Storm Allison Recovery Project

What is TSARP?
The Tropical Storm Alison Recovery Project (TSARP) was a joint project between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Harris County Flood Control District. Originally conceived in June 2001 and officially launched in October 2001, the goal of TSARP was to help local communities continue their recovery from Allison's devastating flooding and provide area residents with a greater understanding of flooding and their flooding risks. This project ultimately resulted in a new Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM or floodplain map) for all 35 National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) communities in Harris County, better engineering tools for the Flood Control District and local communities to use in planning and building new flood damage reduction projects, and an increased knowledge of the risk of flooding for all the citizens of Harris County.

What did the TSARP study produce?
TSARP produced a new Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM or floodplain map) for Harris County with an updated Special Flood Hazard Area. The purpose of the map, along with new engineering tools, is to assist citizens in making important home-buying and other property-related decisions and to help public agencies responsible for planning and maintaining the watershed infrastructure in Harris County. The end result of TSARP was a more informed and disaster-resistant community – one that is better prepared for the next "Allison."

Who funded TSARP?
FEMA and the Flood Control District jointly funded TSARP, which cost approximately $32 million (split equally between FEMA and the District). In 2001, Congress approved a limited FIRM Modernization fund of $15 million nationwide. Updating Harris County's FIRM would have taken 10 years or more if not for Allison and a FEMA initiative called Cooperating Technical Partners, or CTPs.

Were new floodplains created?
New floodplains were NOT created by TSARP. TSARP and the data it produced helped improve the understanding of where the natural floodplains lie by using the latest information and technology. Every citizen in Harris County needs to have the most accurate information about their risk of flooding.

Why did Harris County need a new Flood Insurance Rate Map, or FIRM?
At the time of TSARP, new technologies had become commercially available that were not available 20 years ago when the original FEMA Flood Insurance Study and associated Flood Insurance Rate Map were developed for Harris County. The original FIRM had been kept up to date over time, but those updates where made using the technology used to develop them originally. The technologies used to create the new FIRM, which became effective in 2007, resulted in unprecedented detailed boundaries of the mapped 1 percent (100-year), 0.2 percent (500-year) and coastal floodplains of Harris County.

Were all affected communities in Harris County aware of the study?
Yes, all communities in Harris County were notified of the TSARP effort. A briefing for each community's floodplain administrator was held in August 2001 to announce the initiation of TSARP. A Memorandum of Agreement was sent to each community soliciting their participation in TSARP. Communities also participated through frequent update meetings with FEMA, the Flood Control District and the TSARP team.

How many miles of bayous and creeks were studied?
Approximately 1,100 miles of bayous and creeks in 22 major watersheds were studied along with an additional 100 miles of bayous that were not previously studied with the development of the original floodplain map for Harris County. However, not all of the 2,500 miles of bayous and creeks in Harris County were studied because some bayous are very short and flooding is controlled by the receiving bayou, or some have capacity well in excess of the 1 percent (100-year) flood.

Where all watersheds studied?
Yes, all 22 major watersheds (not all streams) in Harris County were studied including 100 miles of bayous and creeks that were not previously studied. At the conclusion of the TSARP effort, floodplains in all watersheds in Harris County were remapped on the new FIRM.

When was the Flood Insurance Rate Map for Harris County adopted?
The FIRM for Harris County produced through TSARP was adopted by the city of Houston, Harris County and the 33 other communities in Harris County in 2007. Once the map was adopted, it became FEMA’s effective FIRM for Harris County. The FIRM is used by the federal government to set flood insurance rates for NFIP communities and by local cities and counties to regulate land development. The Harris County Flood Control District does not regulate land development. Use the Flood Control District’s Flood Education Mapping Tool to view the floodplain map for Harris County to learn where your property lies relative to a mapped floodplain.

How were the results of the TSARP study delivered to the communities of Harris County?
Paper copies of the FIRM developed through TSARP were delivered to all 35 NFIP communities in Harris County. In addition, each community received several CDs that contained the maps in a digital format and all of the backup data for the project. Public meetings also were held for the general public throughout Harris County, and citizens were able to view the new preliminary FEMA FIRM online on a dedicated website developed for TSARP.

What standard procedures does FEMA follow to ensure the information presented on flood maps and in reports is accurate?
Because the flood hazard information presented on FIRMs and in Flood Insurance Study (FIS) reports form the technical basis for the administration of the NFIP, FEMA exercises great care to ensure that the analytical methods employed in the FIS are scientifically and technically correct; that the engineering procedures followed meet professional standards; and, ultimately, that the results of the FIS are accurate. Although the FIRMs and FIS reports are prepared according to rigorous technical standards, FEMA recognizes the importance of community participation in the preparation of the reports and maps and works closely with community officials and other interested parties to ensure the information presented is accurate, up-to-date and understood.


What is TSARP?
What did the TSARP study produce?
Who funded TSARP?
Were new floodplains created?
Why did Harris County need a new Flood Insurance Rate Map, or FIRM?
Were all affected communities in Harris County aware of the study?
How many miles of bayous and creeks were studied?
Where all watersheds studied?
When was the Flood Insurance Rate Map for Harris County adopted?
How were the results of the TSARP study delivered to the communities of Harris County?
What standard procedures does FEMA follow to ensure the information presented on flood maps and in reports is accurate?
Harris County Flood Control District
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