The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) developed a plan in 1997 to modernize the FEMA flood mapping program. FEMA flood maps delineate flood hazard areas in support of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). FEMA's plan outlined the steps necessary to update FEMA's flood maps for the nation to a seamless digital format and streamline FEMA's operations in raising public awareness of the importance of the maps and responding to requests to revise them. The modernization of flood maps involves conversion of existing information to digital format and integration of improved flood hazard data as needed. To determine flood mapping modernization needs, FEMA has established specific scoping activities to be done on a county-by-county basis for identifying and prioritizing requisite flood-mapping activities for map modernization. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with FEMA and the Maine State Planning Office Floodplain Management Program (MFMP), began scoping work in 2006 for Penobscot County. Scoping activities included assembling existing data and map needs information for communities in Penobscot County, documentation of data, contacts, community meetings, and prioritized mapping needs in a final scoping report (this document), and updating the Mapping Needs Update Support System (MNUSS) Database with information gathered during the scoping process.
As of 2007, the average age of the FEMA floodplain maps in Penobscot County, Maine, is 22 years, based on the most recent revisions to the maps. Because the revisions did not affect all the map panels in each town, however, the true average date probably is more than 22 years. Many of the studies were published in the mid-1980s. Since the studies were completed, development has occurred in many of the watersheds, and the characteristics of the watersheds have changed with time. Therefore, many of the older studies may not depict current conditions nor accurately estimate risk in terms of flood heights or flood mapping.