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Published August 20 2012

Fargo unveils preliminary update to FEMA’s flood plain map

FARGO – Several thousand property owners could fall under federal flood insurance requirements based on a new preliminary flood plain map Fargo officials released Monday.

The map will go through a public review process over the next year, with final approval and adoption slated for summer 2013, Fargo Engineer April Walker said.

At that time, at least 2,300 properties in Fargo will be required to purchase flood insurance, Walker said.

Additionally, as many as 5,000 other properties that lie within 25 feet of the new flood plain also might have to buy flood insurance, depending on their mortgage lending requirements, she said.

The map marks another step in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s effort to complete a comprehensive update of Fargo’s 100-year flood plain.

FEMA’s current flood plain map for Fargo hasn’t changed in at least a decade. Before that, it’d been updated only piecemeal since the mid-1990s, Walker said.

Under that map, 475 structures are affected by the 100-year flood plain, which previously was defined at 38.4 feet on the Fargo gage.

However, FEMA’s new preliminary map uses a 100-year flood definition of 39.4 feet. That, coupled with Fargo’s expansive growth, has brought 7,800 acres into the flood plain.

The affected area mostly includes neighborhoods south of Interstate 94 that aren’t yet protected against flooding.

Also included is land along the Red River and the city’s drain network, as well as portions of Fargo north of Hector International Airport.

Properties in a flood plain that carry a federally backed mortgage are required to have insurance coverage.

Not only will more property owners have to buy flood insurance, their rates also will increase substantially in the next couple years, Walker said.

Property owners who already have flood insurance can be grandfathered-in to higher rates, giving them a financial reprieve until probably 2016, Walker said.

She said property owners who wait to get coverage could be slapped with exponentially higher rates once the new map takes effect.

She offered this example:

Currently, the average resident pays about $405 a year for a preferred-risk policy that covers a $250,000 home and $100,000 worth of contents.

That resident could continue paying that rate for an additional two years after the new map is adopted in 2013.

After that two-year period, the resident would be transitioned into a standard rate policy that could cost about $1,500 a year.

However, if such a resident didn’t have flood insurance or wasn’t grandfathered-in to existing rates, they would pay $2,500 a year for the same coverage by 2015.

“If you think you’re in the new flood plain, get insurance now,” Walker said.

FEMA delivered the preliminary maps to Fargo city leaders on July 31. Since then, Fargo engineers have been reviewing the map for any issues or problems.

“There’s not a lot of inconsistencies, but we’re still in the process of reviewing it,” Walker said. “Overall, it looks pretty clean.”

During a news conference Monday morning, Walker and Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker highlighted the new preliminary flood plain map as a reason to further advocate for permanent flood protection in Fargo.

Walker said a metro-area Red River diversion remains the “ultimate solution,” but officials are continuing to pursue smaller projects that will fortify the internal areas of the city.

If such protection projects are completed and certified by FEMA, then affected property owners could be removed from the new map and, consequently, freed from the insurance mandates that come with it.

“People have said we’ve done so much, but we have so much more to do,” Walaker said. “No matter what happens with the diversion ... we decided as a city to try and provide protection at 42.5 feet river stage, and that will remove a significant amount of property from the requirements of flood insurance. We think that’s extremely important.”

Public meetings

Officials from Fargo, FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program will be on hand to visit with individual property owners, explain the revised flood plain map and discuss how it affects each property. Two public meetings are set for:

For more information, log on to www.fargofloodinsurance.com.

Maps online

View copies of the preliminary maps at inforum.com


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541


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