Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 18, 2018

Jefferson County floodplain map unveiled

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jul 13, 2018
Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo Ken Bouma, left, of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources speaks with Fairfield resident Ryan Prana Miller Thursday at Fairfield City Hall about the newly released floodplain map for the county. It was the first time the whole county has been mapped, and the first time Fairfield has been mapped since 1994.

For the first time ever, Jefferson County’s floodplain has been mapped.

The preliminary map was unveiled Thursday during an open house at Fairfield City Hall hosted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Members of the public attended to ask questions about the map and see which properties are included in the flood plain.

 

Few parcels in floodplain

The DNR’s maps showed two floodplains, the 100-year and the 500-year. If a property is in the 100-year floodplain, that means it has a 1 percent chance of flooding on any given year, while being in the 500-year floodplain means it has a 0.2 percent chance.

Iowa DNR program planner in the land quality bureau Ken Bouma said Jefferson County is fortunate in that, because it has few major rivers, less of the county is at risk of flooding compared to others with major rivers, such as Wapello and Van Buren, which have the Des Moines River. He said fewer than nine parcels in the county with structures on them were found to be in the 100-year floodplain.

No houses in Fairfield’s city limits were added to the 100-year flood plain. Fairfield City Engineer Melanie Carlson said the community has done well on not developing within the floodplain.

“Many of the areas adjacent to the creeks remain in green space or have been restored as green space,” she said. “Lamson Woods, Fairfield Golf & County Club, Neff Wetlands, Greg and Lori Fry’s property which has the Fairfield Loop Trail running through it, Chautauqua Park, the Department of Transportation wetlands adjacent to Chautauqua Park, and Evergreen Cemetery are all areas where structures and critical infrastructure have been kept out of the flood plain.”

 

Regulating construction

Bouma said most communities do not regulate construction in the 500-year floodplain, but construction is commonly regulated in the 100-year floodplain. If a resident wants to build a house in the 100-year floodplain, they will not be able to get a loan because they will not qualify for flood insurance. Bouma said flood insurance is required to get a federally backed mortgage owing to a law passed by the U.S. Congress in the wake of the 1993 floods. Bouma said the house could still be built if the builder did not take out a loan.

To be in compliance with the flood insurance program, a house’s lowest floor must be 1 foot above the 100-year flood elevation. Old houses may be grandfathered into the program even if they do not meet this requirement, but they may have to pay more for flood insurance as a result.

 

County, towns can join

The city of Fairfield was mapped in 1994, and the council subsequently joined the National Flood Insurance Program. The other towns in the county and the unincorporated areas have not joined the national program, though they can now. Some towns are far away enough from major rivers that none of their parcels are in the floodplain, and they include Lockridge, Pleasant Plain, Libertyville and Packwood.

Bouma explained that there are two main consequences of joining the National Flood Insurance Program:

1) Only residents in communities that join the program can purchase flood insurance; and

2) Joining the program would save the community money in the event an emergency is declared in it. The maps will become effective in late 2019, at which time a community (meaning a town or the county government representing the unincorporated areas) will have two years to join the National Flood Insurance Program. If a community has not joined the program in that time and an emergency is declared, it will have to pay 25 percent of the costs to address the emergency instead of 10 percent if it were in the program. The difference of 15 percent would be covered by the state, and the rest would come from FEMA.

 

Resources

To determine the flood zone for your property, visit FEMA’s website at https://msc.fema.gov/portal, or the Iowa Flood Center and Iowa DNR’s at http://ifis.iowafloodcenter.org/ifis/newmaps/hazard/

For questions or comments about the preliminary flood insurance rate maps, contact the following local floodplain experts:

Ken Bouma, DNR NFIP specialist at 515-725-8352;

Scott Ralston, DNR floodplain mapping coordinator at 515-725-8321;

Jason Conn, DNR NFIP specialist at 515-725-8333; or

Chris Kahle, DNR GIS lead at 319-355-1583.

 

 

 

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