FEMA Restudying Evergreen Floodplain Maps

By Beacon Staff

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is in the beginning stages of restudying floodplain maps in Evergreen, a process that could affect flood insurance rates for many in the area.

According to Flathead County Planning Director BJ Grieve, FEMA’s preliminary new maps look as though they could affect 1,000 parcels of land in Evergreen, though the data is still very raw.

The re-study only takes into consideration a certain portion of the Flathead River, Grieve said, running along the section close to Evergreen.

If the re-mapping were completed, the affected parcels could receive a new designation: Special Flood Hazard Area. This classification, which is otherwise known as being located in the 100-year floodplain, would increase flood insurance rates for those parcels, Grieve said.

It would also mean the property owners would have to apply for floodplain permits through the county before making any changes to their property.

The county expects to get the new drafts of the maps from FEMA in two to four months, Grieve said, but he felt it was important to get the information out there now so people knew they could expect some changes.

“We work for the people of Flathead County,” Grieve said. “We have to start telling people about this.”

Floodplain maps directly influence flood insurance rates. If a parcel of land falls under a 100-year floodplain designation, it means there is a 1 percent chance that a certain level of floodwater will affect that land in any given year.

While state law does not mandate that homeowners purchase flood insurance, some mortgage lenders might require it. Similarly, some landlords might require renters to buy some sort of flood coverage if they live in a designated floodplain, Grieve said.

The current floodplain map used for the Evergreen area was created in 1984. It has had several revisions, but nothing as complete as a total overhaul, he said.

The county learned that the FEMA was looking to re-map the area in August of 2008 after a congressional inquiry asked the agency to do so, Grieve said. The planning office received an official letter that the floodplain study was underway two years later in July 2010.

Since the last study of the area was completed in 1979, there are likely multiple physical changes to the area that would affect water flow, such as new bridges and culverts, Grieve said.

Mapping technology has also advanced since the last study of Evergreen’s floodplain. Considering the physical changes to the land and the details provided by new technology, preliminary reports from FEMA indicate that the 100-year floodplain actually covers significantly more area in Evergreen, Grieve said.

Any adoption of the new maps is likely more than a year away, during which time there will be multiple public hearings and a protest period, Grieve said.

However, if a new map is adopted for the Evergreen area, homeowners who had flood insurance before the new maps are effective will have their rates grandfathered-in, Grieve said.

Buying insurance after the adoption would likely mean higher rates, he added.

Grieve said the planning office would provide updates on the remapping process when they became available from FEMA; anyone who would like to receive the updates directly are invited to join the planning office’s e-mail list. Contact the office at 751-8200 or visit www.flathead.mt.gov/planning_zoning.

For more information on floodplains, flood insurance and FEMA, visit http://flathead.mt.gov/planning_zoning/floodplain.php; www.fema.gov/business/nfip; and www.floodsmart.gov.

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