Flood maps to be final Sept. 28

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Kenneth Carr

Federal flood insurance maps for Marshall County have been adjusted, but not finalized and until they are, county property owners may find it advantageous to buy flood insurance because map changes may increase their premium.

That's according to Don Nelson, building official for the county. He's been working with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and property owners who have realized changes in the maps put their land in a flood plain.

"You can now buy a flood insurance policy at a low rate because you're not in the flood zone yet," Nelson said of circumstances that may affect owners of property near creeks, streams and rivers.

Sept. 28 is when FEMA is scheduled to finalize its flood maps for Marshall County, Nelson said. After that, flood insurance rates for land in the new areas will cost more.

The federal government offers a flood insurance program. It's sanctioned by local governments across the nation and therefore usually something local officials know about. Yet as a federal program with infrequent changes, the general public may not have that awareness.

Federal maps showing contour lines where a so-called 100-year flood would cover land were set for Marshall County. Now, nearly 20 years later, modern technology has been used to create new maps.

The proposed maps indicate a flood plain that's different from the current level, thereby increasing the territory that would be flooded by enough rain to create a flood that, statistically, might normally happen once every 100 years.

Since more land is seen as affected by such a flood, more property owners would be affected, Nelson said. That's why he suggests property owners look at the maps and compare their land to the new contour lines.

"You'll be grandfathered in at the lower rates" if the policy is acquired before the proposed flood maps are finalized, Nelson said.

Large announcements have been published in this newspaper about the change in the program and now "The protest period is over," Nelson said.

Some property owners complained that some of their land had been reclassified, "and to FEMA's credit, they came here and we went out and checked out the lines," Nelson said.

Much of the protest was about land around East Rock Creek, he said.

"We went to each bridge on East Rock Creek," Nelson said. The official from the FEMA office in Atlanta took the observations back to Georgia, "made changes and they were significant."

One of the property owners who complained is Kenneth Carr who owns pastures along U.S. 31-A.

"Based on the 1988 maps," Carr said, "I had virtually no property in the flood plain, except at East Rock Creek."

As a long-time county resident, former county official and a Lewisburg utility leader, Carr is not only well known, he has an understanding about how liquids flow down hill and water finds its own level.

He well-remembers what he calls the "ICP flood" when the factory's parking lot was flooded.

"Land contours haven't changed," Carr said. "Now, I come up with at least 80 percent in the flood plain and that's on the revised map."

The change was from about 95 percent of his land in the flood plain, according to the first proposal from FEMA, he said. And that's in contrast to what he saw as a pasture that had very little land in the flood plain, according to the 1988 maps.

East Rock Creek "has never flooded 20 percent" of his land, Carr said.

Geographic Information Computer (GIS) mapping was used to generate the new maps, and the result is a flood plain that Carr sees as five feet higher than the flood plain set in 1988.

Jim Bingham, a Lewisburg-based engineer, warned Carr about the proposed FEMA maps, and Carr found out the warning was important, Carr said.

The importance is minor if the land remains cattle pasture, but if like other farmers, Carr wants to sell the land to a developer, the question is raised about where homes can be built.

Before land is approved for subdividing for homes, a flood study is required, Nelson said. If the study finds discrepancies between the maps that are to be set Sept. 28, then the developer may show the new information to FEMA and ask for a change.

"There is recourse," Nelson said.

Carr agrees the issue is important because he has recognized that more homes are being built in Marshall County. The reason, he believes, is State Route 840. The last leg of the highway around the southern side of Nashville isn't complete, but when it is, Carr anticipates more growth.