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Deadline nears for adopting new FEMA floodplain maps

missouri riverThe St. Charles County Council is faced with adopting new federal floodplain maps by early next year – a requirement that has to be met for residents to buy mandated flood insurance if they are in the floodway.

But councilmembers and officials are warning that some of those property owners may find that the new maps place them in a higher risk area of flooding than in the past. And, even though map adoption is largely mandated by the federal requirement, property owners may get mad at county officials first, council chairman Joe Brazil (District 2) said.

“You’re going to have 4,000 very angry property owners calling you, I’m telling you,” Brazil said.

Local governments recently received notification from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that maps were complete and that they must be adopted by ordinance by Jan. 20, 2016. Accordingly, the county council met with Community Development Department Director Wayne Anthony at a Sept. 28 work session to discuss the process for adoption of the revised maps.

Anthony said the maps began to be developed in 2009 and are based on technology that not only looks at the Missouri and Mississippi rivers but also at county creeks and streams.

More accurate hydrology readings now may determine if property near streams is in a lower risk flood area, such as a 500-year flood area, or a higher risk area, such as one subject to 100-year floods. The more accurate maps and their adoption also is a requirement for residents to be eligible for lower cost flood insurance.

Floodplain maps are a mixed blessing because they may force some housing out of the flood prone areas and reduce insurance payouts, Brazil said.

He noted that some property owners, including himself, have found that the new maps show their property, which was in the 500-year flood area on earlier maps, now is in the 100-year flood area and nothing can be built on it.

Anthony said the baseline flood elevations suggest that 100-year flood levels along the Missouri River have gone up – as much as a foot near Defiance, County Executive Steve Ehlmann added. Baseline elevations for 100-year floods have dropped along the Mississippi River, Anthony said.

Brazil said the situation is unfair and blamed local levees for part of the changing river dynamics.

“You’ve got Chesterfield and St. Peters building these levees and forcing the river levels higher, and they are increasing their property values by decreasing the property values upstream,” Brazil said.

The council is expected to receive an ordinance for adopting the FEMA maps for a first reading later this month, giving  its members time to look at maps before making a final decision, Anthony said.

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