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County Adjusts Floodplain Permit Fees

By Beacon Staff

Flathead County Commission voted unanimously this week to adjust various floodplain permit fees in an effort to simplify the permits and encourage complicity from landowners.

The modifications affected three permit fees, as well as two permit classifications. The “small scale” permit, which previously refer to projects that used less than 15,000 cubic-feet of fill, is now classified as an agricultural floodplain permit. The fee was reduced from $630 to $250.

Similarly, the “large scale” permit, which used to be necessary for projects using more than 15,000 cubic feet of fill, was changed to “dock or ramp” floodplain permit; the fee dropped from $1,050 to $250.

The permit previously titled “single dock/agricultural structures” was changed to the title “Floodplain Permit,” and still costs $350.

Flathead County Planning Director Jeff Harris said the former fee structure did not relate to floodplain regulations, and the new permit fees should make the system easier to use.

Typically, landowners apply for these permits when they are working on their riverside property to protect the land, Harris noted. The permits’ high fees could be prohibitive, he said, and, in several cases, had led to the landowner to either give up on the project or ignore the permit process altogether.

During the same meeting, the commissioners decided to delay a decision on the proposed overhaul for the county’s floodplain regulations. These rule apply only to those within the 100-year floodplain and are necessary if the county wants to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

The proposed changes, which the Flathead County Planning Board recommended to pass in April, would bring the regulations in compliance with current Montana and federal law. The regulations have not been changed since 1984.

Commissioner Dale Lauman said he had received several phone calls from residents concerned about the some of the wording in the proposed document. He said he felt the new regulations are one step away from being passable.

“I think we need to take the time to cover the issues out there that people are concerned about,” Lauman said.

Lauman also said he would like to get more input from large landowners in the floodplain.

Commissioner Joe Brenneman said the proposed changes had already been through public comment, but he suggested the commission schedule a workshop to go over specific concerns in August.

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