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Published August 21 2012

Forum editorial: Expensive flood map for Fargo

Every now and again the city of Fargo has a “we told you so” moment. The report Monday about the city’s new Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plain map is such a moment.

For several years now, city officials have been warning property owners that the flood plain would be raised by FEMA, based on the recent history of Red River flooding. The fallout from the proposed change is higher costs for residential and commercial flood insurance policies. And we’re talking about significantly higher costs.

The current average for federal flood insurance in Fargo is about $405 annually for a $250,000 home and $100,000 worth of contents. If the flood plain change proposal is fully implemented without change (by 2015), the rate would rise from $1,500 to $2,500, depending on whether a property was grandfathered in at the current rate. The change could affect 7,800 acres of the city and from 2,300 to 5,000 properties, depending on their locations relative to flood plain boundaries.

It’s a huge hit. And remember, the premium is paid annually.

Mayor Dennis Walaker and others have emphasized repeatedly that permanent flood protection to an elevation higher than the flood plain is the only way to free property owners from projected insurance rate increases. To that end, the city has devoted extraordinary resources and lots of money to projects designed to raise levels of protection. The expensive work – funded in large part by dedicated city sales tax revenues – is ongoing. It includes not only all manner of flood works in the city but also intense focus on building a diversion, which, experts have concluded, is the only way to achieve comprehensive, long-term protection.

Unless changes are made in the new flood plain map – and that seems unlikely – thousands of properties in Fargo will be required to purchase expensive flood insurance. And until Fargo raises the level of protection above the new flood plain elevations, the higher costs will remain.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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