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FEMA 'backpaddles' on study

Friday, January 12, 2007

New flood insurance study to be conducted

THAYER -- Residents in Thayer who think their property is unjustly included in a floodplain have the opportunity to have their property re-evaluated.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Regional Director Richard Hainje responded last month to a letter from U.S. Sen. Kit Bond regarding the floodplain in the Thayer area.

Bond was contacted by Thayer Mayor Allen Deckard due to the alarm of some residents of the city upon receiving information that their property has now been included in a floodplain, causing their property insurance to increase.

Thayer Emergency Management Director Mark Arnold confirmed Jan. 2 that FEMA's mapping contractor has reviewed the study used to produce the current effective flood insurance rate map against the United States Army Corps of Engineers study.

In a letter sent to Deckard's office Hainje wrote: "Based on our contractor's review, FEMA has reason to believe there may have been some technical errors in the flood insurance study that resulted in a higher flood evaluations."

In the letter Hainje said that in order to resolve the issue, FEMA Region VII intends to conduct a new flood insurance study for Oregon County and develop a new flood insurance rate map based on the study.

Arnold stated that the FEMA representative said the study was not included in the yearly budget and will have to be prioritized along with other mapping projects within Region VII.

Arnold said the timeline for the new study will be fiscal year 2007-08. He said he understood that it will take approximately one year to complete the study and then issue a preliminary FIRM.

"We anticipate the revised map to be finished by fall 2009, although an estimated effective date cannot be made at this time," Hainje said.

Arnold said there is something Thayer residents who think their property has been incorrectly placed in a floodplain can do. "They need to contact FEMA and ask for a letter of map amendment," he said.

He said he would not disclose a name or location but one property in the Thayer area has already been removed from the map and another possible removal is pending.

Arnold said an application can be obtained by going to the Web site fema.gov or by hiring a professional engineer or certified land surveyor.

"There is no cost to file the LOMA application; however, it will cost to have the engineer or surveyor complete the portion of the application that gives an accurate legal description of the property in question and the elevations of the property," Arnold said. He added that the approximate cost for that service could be $250.

Hainje said since the current rate map is in question, FEMA will re-estimate the base flood evaluation on a case-by-case basis.

Filing a map amendment application does not guarantee the removal of property from the floodplain. It is, however, the only way FEMA has to determine if the property is or is not in the floodplain.

He said the amendment process will provide benefits also on a case-by-case basis but in a shorter time frame than the new study.

Arnold said that even if FEMA removes property from the special flood hazard area of the map, thus eliminating the federal requirement for flood insurance, a lender still has the prerogative to require flood insurance as a condition of a loan.

Hainje said insurance premiums are considerably lower for structures that have been removed from the special flood hazards areas by issuance of a map amendment than for structures in the flood hazards areas.

He also said FEMA is committed to providing accurate and current flood hazard maps.

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