Further explanation of floodplain mapping provided

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RANGELY | In order to address concerns from Rio Blanco County in regard to the proposed updated county flood plain mapping, representatives from infrastructure firm AECOM, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the National Flood Insurance Program, and FEMA met with community partners including Rangely Town Manager Lisa Piering, Town of Rangely Planner and Engineer Jocelyn Mullen, and the board of county commissioners on the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 19 during a scheduled work session. Rigel Rucker, Project Manager and AECOM engineer, presented information about how flood plain information is gathered and why it is important.

Communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) must keep risk information up to date. The National Flood Insurance Program is a voluntary program that allows homeowners to buy insurance based on Zones and be eligible for federal assistance. This program is overseen by FEMA and Partners, managed by communities, and enforced by lenders. Engineers determine new and changed risks, which are used to determine requirements, and allows discounts for less risks. Rucker said that the current county flood insurance maps date back to 1981. Rio Blanco County has been a part of the program since February 16, 1990. The effective maps were released in 2001. Study data was collected in 2013, 2016, and 2018. This year community leaders and FEMA are reviewing study findings. At the beginning of 2020, a preliminary FIRMs (Flood Insurance Rate Map) release will occur followed by an appeal period in mid-2020. The FIRMs become effective in 2021.

2021 MAP UPDATES

According to Rucker’s presentation actual floods can see different results every time due to dam breaks, bridge and culvert clogging and debris. Models are based on conditions from topographic data and survey and the best available information at the time. The total Affected structures in the 1% annual chance flood zone analysis in the entire county currently is 476 structures. The new model has removed 109 structures and added 56. In Rangely, 161 structures are in the 1% flood zone areas, in Meeker, 27. Twenty eight structures were removed in Rangely and 16 in Meeker. Forty-four structures in the 1% zone were added in Rangely to the most recent proposed mapping and 11 in Meeker. Unincorporated Rio Blanco County has 288 structures in the 1% and the total removed is 65. New Zone A analysis shows 162 structures and the Digitized Effective Zone is 89. (These numbers reflect approximate building counts.) This means that risk increased in some areas and decreased in other areas.

IMPACTS TO PROPERTY OWNERS

How could this impact structures added to the flood zones? Flood insurance will be required for federally backed mortgages in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). It will be required for federal assistance after floods and according to National Flood Insurance Program Agent Erin May, banks can require it. Zone A, AE, AH, AO will be affected. New Zones go into effect with effective FIRMs, not before, which means that Rio Blanco County residents with structures in the flood zones will be seeking flood insurance coverage sometime in 2021, if not sooner.

HOME RATINGS

A home can be rated three ways:

– With an Elevation Certificate (EC) done by a licensed surveyor, engineer or architect.

 Newly mapped rates which increase 15-25% annually until an EC is provided to agent

A home can be grandfathered in by a loyal customer policy or built in compliance. The Loyal Customer Grandfathered Policy applies to homes purchased before or within 12 months following a map revision and never letting the flood insurance coverage lapse. Built in Compliance Grandfathered Policy applies to homes purchased with an EC and/or prior map showing the home was built in compliance at the time it was built or letter from the local floodplain administrator. Policies may be transferred to a new homeowner from the prior owner to maintain any of these types of rating.

COMMUNITY ORDINANCE

In regard to development, a community ordinance specifies what is required. There will be different requirements in a floodway and a non-floodway. The community may adopt the preliminary FIRMs as best available data and use the most restrictive of old and new until the final FIRMs are effective.

Rucker highly recommended coordination of a community meeting to explain the process and answer questions. Mullen told FEMA and AECOM that the preliminary information that was provided to the Town of Rangely was unclear, misleading, and sometimes incorrect and made it very difficult for them to analyze it and understand the implications and impacts to the Town of Rangely. In response, Rucker offered to talk with Mullen when questions needed answered and said that she is getting draft results, “maybe we didn’t do as good of a job as we could have.” Commissioner Gary Moyer said that their presentation “creates a whole different picture than I had prior to the meeting” and thanked them for coming to the work session.

ACRONYM DEFINITIONS:

FEMA -Federal Emergency Management Agency

This agency is responsible for coordinating the federal government’s response to natural and manmade disasters.

NFIP – National Flood Insurance Program

This program allows owners and renters in participating communities to purchase federally backed flood insurance.

FIRM – Flood Insurance Rate Map

A map created by FEMA showing a community’s flood hazard in different zones

SFHA – Special Flood Hazard Area

Areas designated by NFIP that require flood insurance for any federally-backed mortgage programs

By ROXIE FROMANG | Special to the Herald Times