WILLMAR — Most property owners in Willmar might soon have the option of purchasing flood insurance if the Willmar City Council approves the city's membership into the National Flood Insurance program. Willmar would join hundreds of other cities in Minnesota as members of the national program.

About a half of a dozen homes in Willmar would be required to purchase flood insurance if the city joins the program, due to their location in the federally mapped flood plain map. The federal program requires those properties in a high-risk flood zone to purchase flood insurance if there is an active, federally backed mortgage on the property.

To join the program, the city will need to introduce and approve a resolution and ordinance, which requires a few procedural steps. At Monday's council meeting the city council approved forwarding the issue to the Willmar Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing on the issue at the Aug. 7 Planning Commission meeting. If the Planning Commission recommends approval of the enrollment application, floodplain ordinance and the resolution to participate in the national program, it will go back to the city council, which will then have to set a public hearing for the Sept. 2 council meeting. A final decision on joining the National Flood Insurance Program could be made at the Sept. 2 meeting, following the public hearing.

The council has been approached several times in the past about joining the national flood program, but has declined. This year a couple hoping to purchase one of those half dozen homes in the high risk area requested the city's participation. The couple had been unable to get a traditional mortgage to purchase the property because they couldn't purchase flood insurance for it.

While the vast majority of Willmar is listed as a low or moderate flood risk zone, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, nearly a quarter of all flood claims come from those zones. The department advises property owners to purchase flood insurance if they can, because the majority of home owners insurance does not cover flooding and only about half of all floods end up with disaster assistance funds from the government. Residential and commercial properties are eligible for flood insurance coverage under the national program.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the average annual premium for flood insurance was $849, as of June 2016. It can be much less for those not in a high-risk area. More information on the insurance program can be found at www.floodsmart.gov.