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Oct 1, 2005

Update On Flood Map Updates

With images of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina fresh in there minds, communities are paying extra attention to the 100-Year Flood Plain. While once strictly the purview of civil engineers and city planners, government officials and ordinary citizens are asking tough questions about new development and looking for answers.

The Loveland Colorado City Council was contemplating numerous ideas for redeveloping the old fairgrounds downtown. The city's flood map, which was last updated in 1982 had not shown the land in the flood plain. But according to an article in the Loveland Reporter-Herald, a new study of the property discovered that due to surrounding development, much of the land was now in the flood plain. The city had originally envisioned development such as a river walk or a collection of community buildings for the site. Those plans were scrapped due the huge cost of reclaiming land from the flood plain. The city is now pursuing ideas for recreational development that can be constructed within the flood plain.

In Washington Township, Pennsylvania, local residents were concerned about the accuracy of their community's flood maps and a new development's impact on it. The township's flood map was last updated back in 1991. So they launched their on investigation, drawing on local's recollections of high water marks and historic photographs of flooding from the local paper. According to the Waynesboro Record Herald, when asked about their findings, FEMA spokesman Philip Clark said, "They could be right. We don't always have all the information available." The township supervisors approved the development but have asked FEMA to review the town's flood map.

While many people struggle with outdated flood maps, residents of New Hampshire continue to complain that newer, digital maps are costing them money. According the Exeter News-Letter, some residents of Rockingham and Strafford Counties are upset that the updated flood maps have necessitated the purchase of flood insurance, now that the flood zones are more identifiable.

I posted previously on FEMA's efforts at modernizing their flood maps. Perhaps this interest in mapping of flood risks will result in more funding from congress and directions to speed up the effort. Or perhaps, FEMA will be too distracted with efforts to address concerns about their disaster preparedness and put their mapping modernization on the back burner.