The Federal Emergency Management Agency issued new, preliminary floodplain changes for Evergreen, adding about 1,000 properties to the 100-year floodplain.
Many of these properties were either designated as 500-year floodplain areas or not in a floodplain at all when the current flood insurance rate maps (FIRM) were created in 1984, according to Flathead County Planning Director BJ Grieve.
The new mapping process began in 2008, after an Evergreen property owner expressed concern about the floodplain boundaries there. This owner contacted a South Dakota senator, who launched a congressional inquiry about the matter, which led to FEMA’s boundary re-study and re-mapping.
There are several ways a shift to the 100-year floodplain could affect a property owner, Grieve said. The biggest issue is flood insurance rates, which the FIRM directly influences.
A 100-year floodplain designation means a property has a 1 percent chance of flood-level water on the property any given year.
State law does not mandate flood insurance, but there are situations when a property owner could be compelled to have such coverage. For example, anyone seeking to purchase property within the 100-year floodplain using a loan from a federally backed bank is required by FEMA to have flood insurance, Grieve said.
Any property owner in the 100-year floodplain will have higher flood insurance rates than those in a 500-year floodplain or outside the floodplain designations, he said.
“Your insurance rating, your risk rating, is based on what’s on this map,” Grieve said.
Also, any county wanting access to federally subsidized flood insurance is required to adopt floodplain and floodway management regulations, which Flathead County has. This means property owners have to apply for permits for certain uses on their land, Grieve said, even if they don’t have flood insurance.
The new maps from FEMA are far from set in stone as the new FIRM data in Flathead County. There is a public meeting scheduled on July 28, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Evergreen Middle School Gym, to discuss the new maps, followed by a 90-day protest period.
Once the appeal period is up, FEMA may make changes to its maps based on protests that have been submitted with supporting technical data.
Appeals are then processed and reviewed, taking two to three months, possibly longer depending on the volume of appeals. FEMA’s final preparation of the FIRMs takes another two months, and then the community has six months to adopt the new maps once FEMA’s letter of determination is received.
Property owners whose designation has changed should receive a letter from FEMA, Grieve said. The county planning office does not have a list of affected property owners, since a company in Denver is performing the mailing for the federal agency.
Those with concerns about the accuracy of the new FIRM designations can submit their comments and information to the county planning office, which will then forward them to FEMA.
Grieve stressed that the county planning office can only answer questions about the county’s floodplain regulations; any questions regarding the Evergreen mapping process should be directed to FEMA’s Region VIII office in Denver, available at (303) 235-4871.
The planning office has the new, preliminary FIRMs up on its website, as well as the current floodplain boundaries. Visit www.flathead.mt.gov/planning_zoning/Drafts.php to compare the two; the Evergreen panel is FIRM panel 1810.
There is also a Frequently Asked Questions section on the website, which includes specific contact information for those involved in flood insurance issues, as well as more information on the National Flood Insurance Program and FEMA.