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Tuesday public meeting to discuss GF County's flood insurance map

The Grand Forks County Flood Insurance Rate Map will get an update in the near future after remaining much the same since 1977. Bev Collings, building and zoning administrator for Grand Forks, said the map was first put into place more than 30 ye...

The Grand Forks County Flood Insurance Rate Map will get an update in the near future after remaining much the same since 1977.

Bev Collings, building and zoning administrator for Grand Forks, said the map was first put into place more than 30 years ago, and although it was updated in 1980 and 1985, no significant changes were ever made.

"You could look at the '77 map and get basically the same information that you got in the '85 map," she said. "We were way, way, way overdue, even before the flood."

Flood plain managers from around the county will meet from 3 to 5 p.m. today to discuss and view the new proposed map, and a public hearing open to all county residents will be held 5:30 p.m. in the Grand Forks City Hall Council Chambers.

Changing the map

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Collings said the map for Grand Forks hasn't even been changed to reflect the new protection systems built after the 1997 flood. In 2007, after the dikes and flood walls were completed, officials requested a letter of map revision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to change the city's zoning and get residents a reduction on flood insurance premiums.

But a full remapping process takes years, she said -- the new map likely won't be finalized and approved until early next year, after several more meetings and public hearings.

Today's meeting is preliminary, and officials will establish a timeline of when the map will likely be adopted. It will also enable county residents to see the proposed map, and they will get a chance to weigh in on the new proposals.

This process will also result in a digitized version of the county's flood zone map, something that FEMA is pushing to do across the country. But the new map won't take into account the near-record flooding of this spring, Collings said, because most of the new data was collected between 2003 and 2006.

Even if the new map would place an existing house in a new flood plain, there is a way to be grandfathered in and not be negatively effected by the change. She said these residents who have a flood insurance policy now, and keep that policy up-to-date, can still be covered in the event of a flood in the future.

"The important thing is not to drop your flood insurance," Collings said.

She said county structures built before 1977, when the program went into effect, are able to get a prorated insurance policy, even if they are in a flood plain. City residents protected by the flood walls can get the insurance at a substantially reduced rate as well.

"It's a good thing to have flood insurance, even if you're not in the designated area or it's not mandatory," she said.

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Rural impact

Lane Magnuson, county planner, said there aren't many rural areas that are negatively impacted by the changes in the new map. More significant changes are happening in areas north of Grand Forks, but most of that is in townships that do their own zoning, he said.

There is a benefit to the process -- the new map is more accurate than the previous one, Magnuson said. "It seems as though the new flood plain map is much more refined, taking into consideration some of the contours."

He said county officials haven't seen anything major that they would like to have changed before the map is approved. But these meetings will be important for residents to attend, he said.

"I guess we're looking at it more as a public comment period so people will get a chance to come in and see, and get their questions answered," he said.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: GRAND FORKS COUNTY
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