Friday, November 7, 2008

Hundreds of properties now in flood plain

Earl Jacobs recently got a letter from the city informing him his house might soon be included in a flood plain.

His house didn't move, but the flood plain boundary did.

"I was upset, said Jacobs, 84, who lives several hundred yards north of South Creek on Nettleton Avenue. "This place never floods."

Jacobs' home is among 340 parcels and 116 structures currently outside the Federal Emergency Management Agency's 100-year flood zone that will now be included in the revised flood area.

If there's a mortgage on any of those properties, the owners might be required by their lenders to obtain flood insurance -- a cost they currently don't have to pay.

And people who now find their homes or businesses in the new flood areas will have to disclose that fact to potential buyers if they ever put them up for sale.

City, Greene County and FEMA representatives will have a public meeting today to show FEMA's new flood insurance rate maps and talk about how they might impact property owners.

The public will have 90 days to review the maps and work with the city and FEMA to clarify any technical issues about the accuracy of the maps.

At today's meeting FEMA will have paper maps showing aerial views of the city, with the old and new flood boundaries overlaid on them.

The maps also can be viewed on the Web at

The Web site lets viewers zoom in and out to see properties and flood zones.

The city recently sent out 1,100 letters to property owners living near creeks and flood areas alerting them to the new FEMA flood maps and inviting them to today's meeting.

Jim Wilkinson, who lives two houses down from Jacobs, said he got one of the city's letters, even though his home had never flooded.

"I've lived here 35 years," Wilkinson said. "One time the water got right up next to my property line but it didn't reach the house. They blamed it on a beaver dam that blocked the creek."

Like Jacobs, Wilkinson said he has paid off his home's mortgage, so he wouldn't be required to obtain any flood insurance, though he would have that option.

However, if he ever sold the house and the new owners obtained a mortgage, they likely would be required to buy flood insurance.

Wilkinson said the only water problems he's encountered resulted from a nearby nursing home.

During heavy rains water runs off the property, he said, and soaks his backyard -- even with a new city drainage culvert nearby.

Todd Wagner, stormwater engineer with the city of Springfield, said FEMA began revising its flood maps nationwide after the 1993 floods.

The city looked at FEMA's proposed maps in 1997 and 1998 and decided they they weren't accurate enough.

The city proposed doing its own flood-map survey for FEMA, at a cost of more than $100,000, and the agency agreed.

FEMA used the city's mapping efforts to update its flood insurance rate maps for the city.

They show the expected boundaries for 100-year and 500-year floods.

Properties in the 100-year flood zone are the ones that could be required to buy flood insurance.

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