Flood insurance rates to drop; Some residents in Williams, Maxwell, Arbuckle to get relief after FEMA updates maps
Some Williams, Maxwell and Arbuckle residents may soon find that they no longer need as much flood insurance coverage after a team from FEMA presented its findings to the Colusa County Board of Supervisors.
How much the flood insurance rates could be lowered and exact areas that would soon be out of the floodplain have not been determined.
FEMA modernized floodplain maps last updated in 2003. The findings were presented to the board on Dec. 10.
The changes were made with newer technology and without taking into consideration impediments to the flow of flood water caused by Interstate 5 and the Tehama-Colusa Canal.
The findings reflect a reduced number of houses in flood zones in the three communities. Arbuckle saw the greatest reduction in the number of properties requiring flood insurance. Among the three communities, the impact of the map changes affected Williams the least.
After the presentation, Supervisor Kim Vann said she was pleased with the findings of the advanced two-dimensional mapping resulting from the FEMA study.
"It's great for those people who have to pay flood insurance in the county," Vann said.
"People were paying for flood insurance when they didn't need to," Supervisor Denise Carter said.
While it will take a one year to 18 months for the maps to become official FEMA maps, FEMA engineer Kathy Schaefer said that the county could adopt the proposed maps as the "best available data."
Upon the adoption of the maps by the board, residents would be able to use them and their insurance providers would honor them, said Schaefer.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency project began in February 2010 when Supervisor Denise Carter organized a meeting between the county and FEMA, the public and city and county staff.
The concern was that the floodplain maps for Maxwell, Arbuckle and Williams were not reflective of actual flood flow patterns. The maps were residents to pay for unneeded flood insurance coverage, county officials felt, and the county lacked the funds to conduct an extensive engineering study to have the maps changed.
"This is not something we would have been able to do on our own," Vann said.
"The funds to do this came from a special appropriation that Colusa County just happened to fit," said Schaefer. "That is kind of why we're scrambling to the last."
One point that Supervisor Gary Evans called attention to was the fact that the study did not take into consideration non-FEMA certified levees in the county. Above-ground containing structures for channels had to be "lopped off" in the study. Schaefer said that, had those structures been included, it could have actually increased the floodplain area.
"The old boys that built the old Stone Creek Levee without an engineering permit built the levee the way they did for a reason — so that it wouldn't flood in town," Evans said, referring to Maxwell. He explained that the side of the levee furthest away from town was intentionally built lower.
"I can't see how including those structures would (increase the flooding in town). I haven't had the chance to really look at the old and the new maps side by side, because the maps that they had at the presentation had too much on them," Evans said.
CONTACT reporter Brian Pearson at 713-9519.