Chippewa County scrutinizing new flood maps
New maps show floodplains along most drainage systems that were not shown in previous maps, worrying county officials
MONTEVIDEO — Chippewa County residents will have an opportunity to view new flood maps being prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on April 5.
The new maps include floodplain changes that worry county officials. Most of the drainage systems in the county now show floodplains along them, which they did not before, Scott Williams, land and resource management director for the county, told the Chippewa County Board on Feb. 7. He and the commissioners said they will be urging township officials and rural residents along drainage systems to attend the meeting to be hosted by FEMA to provide input on those maps.
At the same time, officials in Montevideo are hoping to complete the certification of the city’s levee so that the new maps can show the area that the improved levee protects from a 100-year flood event. City Manager Robert Wolfington told the West Central Tribune that he is hopeful that the levee certification will be completed prior to the final adoption of the maps sometime later this year.
The April 5 meeting is an opportunity for residents to provide input before the maps are formally approved by FEMA.
Williams told the commissioners that a look at the preliminary maps show floodplain areas that extend out from drainage systems. An early scan of the maps does not reveal a lot of buildings within the newly-shown floodplain, but there are some, according to Williams. A commodity shed and waste lagoons for a large dairy, as well as a beet piler, were among the examples, he cited.
The land and resource director said the larger concern is whether the floodplain designation might also lead to the designation of those areas as shorelines. If so, a whole new set of regulations would apply to the affected areas, he explained.
“It’s a big deal,” Matt Gilbertson, chair of the county board of commissioners, told a group of rural landowners who were attending the meeting to discuss fees for the county’s feedlot permits. He urged them to inform township officials and others of the importance of providing FEMA with input on the new maps.
Williams said it appears the maps are based on LIDAR-created elevations of the county landscape. He is concerned that the elevations do not take into account protective measures — such as the height of the berms on some ditches that would protect against flooding in lower areas.
Montevideo was able to complete work last year on the third segment of its levee system originally built in 1969. The multi-year project represented more than a $17 million investment to protect floodplain areas in the community.
Wolfington said that FEMA has delayed approval of the floodplain maps for Chippewa County and Montevideo until the levee can be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The city is very interested in assuring that the completed maps designate the areas protected by the levee.
The certification process was underway last year when it ran into a glitch. When a pipe in the new levee segment was filled to assure the dike’s integrity, exploratory work revealed another pipe. The city manager said he is confident that the second pipe can be filled and the levee can be certified this spring.
If the levee is not certified, properties within the 100-year floodplain or Flood Zone A would be impacted in three ways.
- Nearly no development is allowed in an area designated as Flood Zone A.
- Those holding mortgages on properties within the zone would be required to purchase flood insurance each year.
- Those purchasing flood insurance in the zone would pay much higher premiums than would be the case if the properties are within the designated area protected by the levee.
Williams said the city is corresponding with FEMA on setting a time and place for the community input meeting on April 5. Residents will be able to view the preliminary maps and provide FEMA representatives with input.