FEMA floodplain maps called into question
By Anjana Schroeder
After the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released floodplain maps, effective April 17, homeowners started receiving letters from their lenders giving them 45 days to buy additional insurance because they were in a flood zone.
Floodplain maps for Michigan counties were determined by FEMA, but officials in Gladwin and Crawford counties were concerned about the accuracy and impact of the maps.
Approximately 350 homes in Gladwin alone were placed in a newly created flood zone, U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, told FEMA in a letter requesting that Gladwin County have until Oct. 31 to draw new maps.
State Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, contacted the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) about remapping Gladwin’s floodplain.
And U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, and Johnson helped get extra time from FEMA for remapping in Gladwin.
According to Johnson, Gladwin County officials “launched an effort to prepare and submit alternative maps that were based on 1-or-2-foot contour intervals.” FEMA used 10-foot intervals, creating much larger floodplain areas.
Remapping floodplain zones is not always the easiest option, said Grayling Township Supervisor Rick Harland. He said Grayling won’t remap because it would be too expensive.
Crawford County’s geographic information systems technician, Gaye Pizzi, obtained the floodplain map from FEMA, so when Crawford County residents ask if they are in a flood zone, she is able to give them an accurate answer.
Some residents have then hired surveyors and, in none of those cases did the surveyors find the properties to be in a flood zone, Pizzi said.
“Whatever company came to map the floodplains must have never set foot in Crawford County,” she said.
“What was unfortunate was that a base flood elevation was never set for Crawford County and FEMA didn’t set one either,” Pizzi said. Banks send letters to homeowners in flood zones and give them 45 days to get insurance, she said.
And anything attached to a house is considered in the flood zone. “Someone could have stairs leading out to the water, or a deck that falls in the flood zone.”
Grayling Charter Township Supervisor Rick Harland said he can personally relate.
“My property shows I’m in the floodplain but my house is not.” He is hiring surveyors to determine the maps accuracy.
Lovells Township Supervisor Gary Neumann said about a dozen parcels have been determined to be in the flood zone in his township. “Out of a dozen, half of the structures were clearly not in the flood zone.”
It is the property owners’ responsibility to either obtain insurance or hire a surveyor if they wish to determine if their homes were accurately placed in a flood zone.